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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