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'The Lake House' Review: Sandra Bullock & Keanu Reeves in Unconvincing Time-Bending Romance

Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock in The Lake HouseIn The Lake House, Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves play two pen pals (a.k.a. platonic lovers) separated not by physical or emotional space, but by an even more gigantic obstacle: time. Two years to be exact. (See synopsis.) You can put the blame for this cosmic mess on the U.S. postal service or on the mutt that magically shows up at the lake house in both the past and the future, but there's a good reason for all this time warping. Without it, our two lovebirds would never have heard of each other. Obviously, the film's main question is, Will the lovers ever meet? No prizes for those who guess right.

“A stubborn illusion” is how Einstein once described the distinction between past, present, and future. He might as well have been talking about the depiction of human relationships in commercial movies such as The Lake House. Apart from the basic plot gimmick – and a clever (if hardly unexpected) revelation near the end – The Lake House offers little more than two box office names posing for the camera while uttering platitudes about love, family, and friendship.

Based on Hyun-seung Lee's slick, MTV-ish Siworae / Il Mare (2000), this Hollywoodized remake is more conventional and less visually striking than the original. Yet, director Alejandro Agresti's subdued approach has actually made the absurd story a tad more appealing and heartfelt than the glitzier Korean film. If Il Mare has the feel of a cosmic soap commercial, The Lake House has the feel of a cosmic soap opera. (See key differences/similarities between the two films.)

Additionally, Agresti (with the assistance of editors Alejandro Brodersohn and Lynzee Klingman) keeps the story moving at a steady pace, while screenwriter David Auburn has fleshed out several supporting characters that are brought to life by high-caliber actors such as Dylan Walsh, Willeke van Ammelrooy (the star of the 1995 foreign-language Oscar winner Antonia's Line), and Academy Award nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo (for House of Sand and Fog). In the final count, however, all of the film's humans are outacted by a chess-playing dog in dire need of a bath.

Those who enjoy a mix of workmanlike filmmaking and manufactured romances will not be disappointed with The Lake House. On the other hand, those who believe that romantic movies should offer more than plot gimmicks, star power, and pop ballads should probably look for entertainment elsewhere.

 

Synopsis:

When Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock) leaves her house by the lake to move to Chicago, she posts a letter to the future tenant asking that her mail be forwarded to her new address.

When she receives a written response from new tenant Alex Burnham (Keanu Reeves), an architect who makes a living as a construction worker, Kate learns that no one has lived in the lake house in years. She also finds it strange that Alex's letter is dated 2004 – two years earlier than the present.

Eventually, Kate and Alex come to the realization that they are living two years apart. This minor glitch in the patchwork of time doesn't faze them nearly as much as their own personal dramas: Kate is alone, having ended an unsatisfying relationship with a businessman named Morgan (Dylan Walsh), while Alex is upset because he and his detached father (Christopher Plummer), a renowned architect who had built the lake house, don't get along.

As their penpalmanship develops into a platonic romance, Kate and Alex set up a 2006 meeting at a fancy Chicago restaurant. Kate waits and waits, but Alex doesn't show up. What could have happened?

The Lake House (2006). Dir.: Alejandro Agresti. Scr.: David Auburn, from the motion picture Siworae / Il Mare, written by Eun-Jeong Kim and Ji-na Yeo. Cast: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Christopher Plummer, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Willeke van Ammelrooy, Dylan Walsh.

 

Notes:

Spoilers:

A couple of key differences between Siworae / Il Mare and The Lake House:

  • In Siworae, the car accident that kills the hero takes place in the “past” and near the end of the film. The heroine witnesses the accident, but feels nothing because the hero means nothing to her at the time (before they began corresponding). In the remake, the accident takes place in the “present” and near the beginning of the film. The difference is that we don't see the man who has been killed. We only learn later that he had died in the heroine's arms.

  • In Siworae, hero and heroine finally meet in the “past.” The hero – who doesn't die because the heroine has changed the course of history – arrives at the Lake House, letters in hand, to tell the new tenant, the heroine, a “magical” story. In the remake, they meet in the “future” (2008 to be exact), shortly after the heroine has prevented his death from taking place in 2006. Get it?

A couple of key similarities between Siworae / Il Mare and The Lake House:

  • Neither hero nor heroine comes up with the following brilliant idea: “You're two years ahead of me. Look me up in the phone book and give me a call. Oh, you can't find me because I'm dead? Well, in that case try my brother. He'll be able to tell you which cemetery to visit…”


         
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3 Comments to 'The Lake House' Review: Sandra Bullock & Keanu Reeves in Unconvincing Time-Bending Romance

  1. Christine Thieman

    Thank you so much for such a wonderfully cast, beautifully moving piece of art. No two actors alive could have played the parts of Alex and Kate better than, Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. Possibly my most favorite movie in a lifetime.

    Thank you again. For revealing just how deeply one can love.
    Christine

  2. ari

    The original is much, much better. Keanu Reeves was miscast.

  3. Kathleen Wachowski

    Prescriptum : I hope you will understand the global ideas of my letter, it's a long time ago, I have been writing a letter in English…
    Paris, 1 of March 2007

    Dear Alejandro Algresti,

    I would like to express my deep gratitude to you and to whole of the Team, including this extraordinairy dog Jack, with whom you created the "Lakehouse û. Thank you all, deelpy from my soul.
    For this wonderful, rich and simple manner in which you show the several levels of our conscience, of our being, what allows an multiple understanding.
    For the beautyful, sensitiv and funny composition of sounds, melodies (special MERCI to Rachel Portman) , colours, pictures, words, people trough which you transmit the idea of our transition on earth, the life before and after the Life here and how they coexiste in us and how they influence each other. (So I percieved the movie)
    The Idea of the glashouse in/over the lake is brilliant! For me it is a beautiful expression of the moment, when we are more desincorporated than normally, we are less here and more there, in the same time, due to a deep connexion with a soul we love, to whom we are attached, but who is in the other world. When we are more in the spirit than in the chair, when we are about to get re-born in this world, when we are in the water of the univers, before coming really into this world on Earth, before being connceted by the fire of this planet, by love. At least, I interpretated it like this due to my own experience. Once, when I felt the presence of a soul before being pregnant and once just before and after the little daugther I had in my body left again to the other world at the same time like my mother, to whom I felt equally a deep etherical link.
    It seems to me, that the real understanding of thoses connexions will always stay a mystery for us. But the perception of them gives us the conscience that we are a part of this wonder-ful univers and of our chance and our responsability here.
    At this time I thought to make once a movie about the beauty and difficulty of those moments of transition, before and after the incarnation and the spirituel links between different souls, the link with the univers. The deeper understanding of this allows us to accept our being on Earth in a more peaceful manner and to enjoy it more. The mouvie should be about the beauty of the conscience in which a man and a women create the physical body, the home for the souls, their futur children and about the beauty of the conscience the help their parents to leave their physical body to go back to the other world. About the re-naissance after the arrival or departure of a soul in our life. May be you should do this mouvie ? It can help, heal a lot many people, women as well as men, from the suffering due to that they lost a baby, a child or some( old ) person they loved and give them more conscience of their divinity.