When Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock) moves out of her house on the lake to settle in the city of Chicago she leaves a letter for whoever moves in after she is gone. This letter details her love for the house and her blessings for the person who has bought it. Architect Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves) is the new tenant who moves in after her.
Upon reading the letter, and noticing inconsistencies with regards to the house, he enters into correspondence with her. As their friendship develops, Kate and Alex begin to fall for each other but they also realise that Alex is in fact living in the house two years before Kate.
I think it would be quite fair to call The Lake House a pretentious piece of cinema. It combines a schmaltzy romance with elements of time travel to give you a film that makes little sense. It’s one of those films that thinks it’s entirely clever when in fact everyone can see that it’s rather stupid.
Keanu is no stranger to pretentiousness. In The Matrix Reloaded we were treated to it in bucketfuls, especially in the scenes involving The Architect. At the time of its release audiences were largely unaware that what they were watching was utter drivel. Upon re-watching the film, we now know that it was nonsense. This form of pretentiousness was able to fool us with smoke and mirrors, but the kind found in The Lake House is not.
Based on the South Korean film Siworae, made in 2000, The Lake House represents yet another notch on Hollywood’s remake belt. Having not seen the original I can’t draw comparisons but what I can tell you is that, faithful adaptation or not, The Lake House is a poor piece of film.
The two-year gap between its lead characters is a major stumbling block, not only for them, but also for the film because it hasn’t been thought out well. Earlier I mentioned elements of time travel, but it’s important to clarify that there is no actual travel as such by the characters themselves. Rather, film employs the concept of intertwining the past and the present – in such a way that the characters can communicate with one another across time.
This concept is utilised throughout the film but it’s a pity that it’s not employed in more exciting ways; Alex planting a sapling tree for Kate in the past so that in her present – two years later – it is a full-grown tree is about as exciting as it gets. The continual jumping back and forth within the sequence of events – from past to future and vice versa – clutters things terribly. So much so that I quickly reached the point where I simply did not care anymore.
The speed at which Alex and Kate fall in love is also questionable. It took me by surprise because there was no real build up to the moment when they realised that they were in love. It’s simply a case of sending two or three letters back and forth – communicated via a montage to the audience – and hey presto it’s happened. This left me with no real connection to the couple: their struggle to then stay together and make the relationship work was not nearly as emotional as it could have been.
Then there’s the twist right at the end. I’m not one to spoil films for people so I won’t go into details but let’s just say that this is the point where the film reaches the pinnacle of its “cleverness”.
Uninspired, boring at times, and with hardly any chemistry between its two leads, The Lake House will try to charm those of you who have a weak spot for sentimentality and romance. I urge you to resist.