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Movie Review: The Lake House

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Based on the South Korean fare entitled Il Mare, The Lake House challenges the mind’s suspension of disbelief.  The crux of the story is based on a lakeside mailbox that allows hand-written letters and additional contents to bend space and time.  Although the film is fashioned as a romance, its characters aren’t at liberty to share their chemistry (previously seen in Speed) until the final scene. 

With The Lake House, it quickly becomes apparent that the film’s positives are not enough to overcome its shortcomings. Lonely doctor, Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock) is moving out of her made-of-glass lake house.  But, before she leaves for her new center-city flat, Kate begins communicating with the house’s former tenant, lonely architect Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves).  By exchanging love letters, the two introduce themselves on paper and soon realize that Kate is living in 2006, while Alex is living in 2004.  To unite, the pair must solve the mystery of how Alex can catch up to Kate without consequence. 

Even though the picture functions primarily as a romance and delves into science-fiction, The Lake House is – more than anything – a fantasy.  No insight – none, zip, zilch – is offered into the hows of the magical mailbox.  Once the mailbox’s powers are revealed, one would think that the people who pen the love letters would become obsessed with this fascinating phenomenon—possibly even passing a lottery ticket or some other life-changing information on.  But, they become bored with writing to each other and choose not to spread the ground-breaking news via television or internet. Speaking of which, for a film that challenges time-travel, are the characters too incompetent to use a computer?  Why does Kate not simply “Google” Alex, discover a picture of him, and locate him in her own time?  Why do the both of them keep writing their letters by hand instead of typing them to save time?   

With any film that involves changes in time, inevitable paradoxes rise to the surface.  Sometimes theses paradoxes are pulled with a fine-toothed comb or covered-up, but in the case of The Lake House, they are ignored.  More specifically, some viewers may need their hand held—not in a loving manner, but rather to settle the bewilderment of the plot’s gaps and holes. 

Similar to the manner in which you can see through the house’s glass walls, it is hard not to observe the contrivances and illegitimacies of time travel.  Point blank, actions are taken by the main players without invariable repercussions.  Mindsets do not change, and the rips in time do not result in the catastrophic differences one would expect.  Sadly, this is the feature’s major downfall.

 In addition, the means of communication quickly becomes confusing.  The “conversations” where the “written” dialogue goes back-and-forth in a call-and-response manner is too much.  It is difficult to distinguish if Kate and Alex are physically talking or if they are reading one-line question/answer letters to each other. Lastly, the inclusion of the secondary characters and an obvious final twist are unnecessary.  The side parts played by Shoreh Aghdashloo, Christopher Plummer, Dylan Walsh, Willeke van Ammelrooy, and Lynn Collins could have been cut out of the script, and the picture would not be better or worse off.  As for the twist, it is pathetically clear as soon as the clue occurs.   

For the most part, The Lake House can be considered a convoluted, flawed, and miscalculated effort to intermingle love and time.  However, it can also be considered a daring romance that will tug on your heartstrings.  It may charm some and confuse others.  Or, it may leave you with a blended opinion between appeal and uncertainty.


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About Brandon Valentine

  • Like you, I figured out the twist ending fairly early on. However, the script and acting still provided an element of suspense and anticipation as I hoped that it wouldn’t turn out the way I expected.

    Romantic movies are not my cup of tea, but I really enjoyed this one thanks mainly to the science fiction element. Yes, there are time travel paradoxes that are not explained well in the film, and this is why we must suspend our disbelief when watching something like The Lake House and simply enjoy the story for what it is.

  • Robert Salway

    My 12 year old daughter fell in love with this movie and has been watching it over and over whenever she can. The first time I watched it with her I didn’t like it. I’m a science fiction fan and the time travel was so far off I couldn’t believe it was all on film, but about halfway through it I started to see it as a romantic fantasy and, despite the huge plot hole that opens up at the ending, the characters and their predicament got to me. I was feeling sorry for the poor boyfriend who kept getting dumped for Alex but I also wanted to know how he (Alex) and Kate were going to get together the last time, or if they would at all (because it was easy to figure out who the man at Daley Plaza was.)
    I forgot about the time travel aspect and just went with the love story. It’s the only way to enjoy this movie. I have to watch it as though through my daughter’s eyes.

  • Beverly K.

    I just saw this movie and I liked it. I didn’t pay much attention to the science fiction part of it because I thought the crux of the story was good enough— the building love interest between the two leads. And yeah, I guessed Alex was the guy who died because he never appeared in Kate’s time after the accident. Even so, I enjoyed the movie. In fact I rented the original movie “Il Mare” and watched it too.
    If the sci fi in the Lake House bothers you— and I can see how it would after seeing the original— I would suggest watching Il Mare.
    The English subtitles on the DVD I rented were pretty good, though there were a couple of places where the wording was odd. The story is easy to follow. Il Mare deals with the sci fi element better than Lake House. One thing: are the drivers in Korea really so careless? LOL. There are a couple of auto accidents in the film that are played as if they happen every day and people are used to them.