Directed by: Alejandro Agresti
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, Christopher Plummer
Rated: PG for some language and a disturbing image.
Parental Notes: This is a fairly innocuous film for preteens and older kids. Young children might be a bit spooked by a sequence early in the film when a man is hit by a bus.
“The Lake House” is that rare commodity, a time-travel romance. Like “Kate and Leopold” before it, it uses an improbable time-related plot device to bring two people from different eras together — but in this case, they’re from two years apart rather than two centuries. Their inter-annual correspondence involves a number of paradoxes that will likely send any science fiction philosopher into an apoplectic state, but this is after all a romance film. It runs on emotion, not on logic.
Lonely doctor Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock, “Miss Congeniality 2”) reluctantly moves out of a beautiful house over a lake as the film opens. She leaves a note for the new tenant saying that both the box in the attic and the dog paw prints by the door were there when she moved in and asks him to forward her mail, then heads off for her new post in a Chicago hospital.
The new tenant is Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves, “Constantine”), whose father designed the house before he became internationally famous for his architecture. Alex is an architect as well, but has rebelled against his father by going into the business of building condos. Alex finds the note but is confused: nobody has lived in the house for years, there are no dog paw prints by the door, and there is no box in the attic. Plus, she got the date wrong. He politely writes a note correcting her and asking if she left the letter at the wrong house, and she finds his reply when she returns to the lake house after a rough day at work.
They begin a correspondence when she writes back to inform him that he’s the one with the wrong date and she knows perfectly well which house she means. They soon discover that they are two years apart, but can communicate by leaving notes in the mailbox. They are both at difficult points in their lives and find an understanding friend in each other, so they continue writing and are soon falling in love.
Alex desperately wants to meet Kate, so they arrange a dinner at the most exclusive restaurant in Chicago (one advantage of a cross-time romance is that it makes getting dinner reservations easier). What happens that evening is the first clue that there is some other obstacle than time keeping them apart.
Experienced moviegoers will likely find “The Lake House” predictable and flawed, but as I said before, this is a film about emotion, not about logic. The fact that many of the conversations Alex and Kate have seem to use an instant messenger system rather than letters left in a mailbox must be overlooked, as must the logistical time line problems presented by several of the film’s events. This is not a film to analyze for believability, it is a film to allow to wash gently over you and tug at your heartstrings.
Reeves and Bullock have matured greatly since they shared the screen in “Speed,” but they are still quite charming. It helps that their roles are well-written and offer them the chance to be thoroughly romantic. A romance movie lives or dies in its lead actors’ performances, and by that metric “The Lake House” is a success.