© 2006 Ray Wong
Twelve years after Speed, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock reunite (fans around the world rejoice) in a romance! While I can't stand the usual Hollywood romances (romantic comedies being the exception), truth be told, The Lake House is one of the best I've seen in recent years.
When Chicago doctor Kate Forster (Bullock) vacates the specular lake house she's been renting for a few months, she leaves the next tenant a welcome note. When architect Alex Wyler (Reeves) arrives at the lake house, he finds the note left by Kate. The odd thing, however, is the date on the letter: it's 2006. For Alex, 2004 has just begun and the house has been abandoned for years. He thinks it's a practical joke, and he leaves the "trespasser" a note. When Kate, needing a brief break from the stress in Chicago, returns to the lake house, she finds the note, and she writes back.
Soon, they realize that they exist in two different times, exactly two years apart. Their only connection with each other is the magical mailbox and the letters they leave for each other. Through their letters, they start to get to know each other. Curious, Alex crosses path with Kate in 2004, who obviously doesn't know him and is living with her boyfriend Morgan (Walsh). The love between Alex in 2004 and Kate in 2006 grows as they continue to confide in each other. Soon, Kate decides that she must meet Alex in 2006 and settles this once and for all.
Speed made Bullock (Crash) a star and Reeves (Constantine) a bona fide action hero. It's interesting to see them get together again in a romance-fantasy. Bullock still does her lonely, girl-next-door part justice. She's radiant, lovely, yet vulnerable and guarded. Reeves is, as usual, cool and dashing, yet surprisingly expressive in some key scenes. Twelve years later, Bullock and Reeves still share tremendous chemistry with each other, and that's quite phenomenal when you consider they only have two scenes together.
The supporting cast is strong in their relatively small but well-developed roles. Aghdashloo (X-Men: The Last Stand) is warm and affecting as Kate's colleague, Dr. Klyczynski. Plummer (Inside Man) is cold, proper and pompous as Alex's father, Simon Wyler, a Frank Lloyd Wright-like architect. Moss-Bachrach (Live Free or Die) is earnest and sincere as Alex's younger brother, Henry. Walsh (Nip/Tuck) is solid as Kate's lovelorn ex-boyfriend, and Dutch actress Ammelrooy (Lulu) is sweet as Kate's widowed mother.
The script by Auburn (Proof) is based on the Korean film Siworae (2000) written by Eun-Jeong Kim. The story makes an interesting decision to not explain the magic of the mailbox and how the time rip comes to be. The audience must simply accept the premise; thus, the movie sets up an expectation: Alex asks Kate, "Is is really happening?" and Kate answers, "Why not?" Likewise, we must also believe in the magic of love, that anything could happen. The timeline is a little confusing and we must pay attention or else we would get lost. As with any stories dealing with time-space continuum, there is a number of inconsistencies, logical flaws and plot holes. For example, the bits about the tree and the book are too sentimental and silly, they defy logic. The dog is simply weird. And we must ask, have they ever heard of e-mail and Google? However, none of these flaws are fatal, and it doesn't really affect our enjoyment of the story in any negative way.
Under the deft direction of Agresti (Valentin), the film excels in many areas. As a love story, the film has a wonderful romantic look and feel to it; the atmosphere is spot on. The cinematography is rich, soft, and oh-so-romantic. The themes of separation and waiting also serve the story well. The concept of the letters are a bit old-fashioned, but it plays well in an essentially old-fashioned love story. The characters are well-developed and real, not just cardboard cutouts. The clever editing helps tell the story, too, but it could use some tightening to clarify the timelines and paradoxes. I keep asking myself why can't they just meet in 2004 (or 2006) and get it over with? The answer comes later.
While the plot is somewhat predictable, it doesn't feel cliched or overtly sentimental and sweet, which is a bonus, considering how many romance stories fail because of that. The incident near the beginning is an obvious foreshadow, but it sets up the rest of the film nicely, making us want to find out how the story unfolds and concludes. The ending also makes perfect sense to me, and I must say it's one of the best time-defying love stories I have seen, and I'm not easily impressed by love stories. For the hopeless romantics, The Lake House is fine and satisfying.
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Christopher Plummer, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Willeke van Ammelrooy, Dylan Walsh, Lynn Collins
Director: Alejandro Agresti
Writers: David Auburn (based on Korean film Siworae by Eun-Jeong Kim)
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG for some language and a disturbing image
Running Time: 105 minutes
Script – 7
Performance – 8
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 7
Production – 8
Total – 7.7 out of 10