KerryHayes Smpsp, Kerry Hayes
Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum in "The Vow," which is loosely based on a true story.

"THE VOW" — ★★★ — Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neill, Jessica Lange, Scott Speedman; PG-13 (language, partial nudity); in general release

The new romance film "The Vow" suggests love means never having to say you can't remember your spouse's name. The film, loosely based on a true story, follows the life of a woman who comes out of a coma with no recollection of her married life.

"The Vow" has three things going for it: likable stars, a director who knows how to stay away from Saccharine-sweet sentimentality and a compelling story.

The film's biggest assets are Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. McAdams has the type of angelic face and sweet personality that make it easy to fall in love with her. Tatum brings both a rough physicality and surprising vulnerability to his role. They make it easy to root for this couple to stay together.

Michael Sucsy uses an even hand in directing the romantic elements. He doesn't push the romance with overly orchestrated music or fancy film work. He's confident enough in his direction to allow scenes to play out at a pace that gives the audience time to get to know these people.

He even manages to stage the car-crash sequence, which sets the story in motion, in a poetic manner rather than go for shock value. There are a few romance-film mainstays in "The Vow," but generally it has a fresh, sweet tone.

As for the story, amnesia is always tricky because it is often used as a way around plot obstacles. It works here because it is the vehicle to drive the love story and not a cheesy gimmick.

Incidentally, when they say the film's loosely based on a true story, that means almost nothing is the same. In the original story, the wife awakes from her coma, her husband says they are married and they go on with their lives using deep religious faith to get them through the crisis.

Had the film been actually based on that story, it would have been forgettable. It's the struggle to rekindle a love that once burned brightly that grabs our heart. "The Vow" is a reminder of how beautiful it is to fall in love — even if it is for a second time.

It's a perfect way to spend Valentine's Day.

"The Vow" is rated PG-13 for language and partial nudity; running time: 104 minutes.