REVIEW: The Lake House [2006]

“You’re going to think I’m crazy”

There are many romantic comedies that I enjoy due in most part to the laughs and fun scripts they bring. As for the romance/love genre, I would say there are very few which I would want to experience again. Without the humor, these types of films generally seem too contrived and trite, just a way of killing two hours with a result that you know is coming before you even begin watching. I shouldn’t generalize all movies of this ilk because really, it is mostly American love stories that annoy me, whereas a film like In the Mood for Love is a masterpiece of story, tone, and emotion. With that said, I am not surprised that last year’s The Lake House is another Asian import reworked for the US. Why am I not surprised? Well, the answer is because I found myself enjoying pretty much the entire film. It is by no means a perfect movie—more on this later—but for a love story, I found myself completely caught up in it and waiting anxiously to see what would transpire. I can only imagine that the Korean original, Il Mare, only improves what is shown here, and I am very interested to see if that is true.

It is weird because most of these films that I don’t like are because the ways two people are finally put together are so out there, that it could never happen in real life. Coincidences don’t happen that perfectly ever. However, with the orchestration to get two kindred souls together in a real world takes me out of a film, it is surprising that one with a premise about two meeting each other through a mailbox, two years apart, actually works for me. Maybe it is the fact that they get to know each other while so far apart. Without being onscreen together for the entire movie, you don’t start picking apart their performances and lack of chemistry. These two lovesick characters, played effectively by both Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, create a huge amount of chemistry through their reactions, alone in a room, reading the words from the other. You start to anticipate the eventual meeting and the sexual tension increases to the point where you generally start to worry it may never happen. Even when they are together, one of them doesn’t yet know who the other is, so every encounter is like they are meeting for the first time. In effect then, they fall in love almost three times during the course of the film, each one as genuine as the last.

Besides the acting being quite good, emotions running high as they each share the tragedies which have occurred in their lives, the actual realization of the situations are very well done also. For one, the cinematography is often times beautiful to look at, whether is be running from behind a layer of trees, the blurred split-screen two years apart of even the angles used to get close-ups of our leads, it is a sight to behold. As far as the effectiveness of the time travel aspect, even this is done in a mostly believable way. The moments where they change history through their letters, like the tree in front of Bullock’s apartment, they are integrated that second, like they have been there forever. As for encounters in the past, they are always in their memories, even if they don’t quite remember them clearly. Something that is done in the past doesn’t change the future because it has already happened, in just took two years for it to be meaningful enough to recall.

The ending is the only part of the film that may leave a bit of a plot-hole. An action by the one creates a major shift in what would be an entirely different two years as a result. The audience must take a leap that everything would have continued the same with that one moment changed, and because it is at the very end, you kind of don’t get enough time to question it, so it does work. Besides this, I do have one other problem with the ending and that is the happiness of what happens. I am interested to see how the original concluded, because maybe they did it how I would have wanted, ending tragically because of their correspondences. The final revelation, although obvious, could have carried out in sadness and I believe have been more effective as a result. Ending in tragedy would have made the bond between them during the rest of film more powerful, knowing that the short time they had together was true love and meaningful. Instead we get a happy conclusion with the future left open as one of infinite possibility, While it still works, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Hollywood changed the ending to make viewers feel good, rather than see the true meaning of love and how it transcends the physical world by letting fate decide what happens, turning their actions, unknowingly to them, into a journey ending it tears.

The Lake House 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

[1] Kate (Sandra Bullock) and Alex (Keanu Reeves) in The Lake House directed by Alejandro Agresti


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