Monday, 25 May 2009

The Lake House

Lowdown: A couple battles a two year barrier to fulfil their relationship.
The Lake House started for us when we were facing a Friday night with no rented movies at hand. What were we to do? Well, we chose to turn to the aid of our PVR and record The Lake House, a romantic drama from 2006, off Channel 9. Then we started watching it after twenty minutes or so, allowing us to skip over the ads and pause whenever we feel like. Ah, the wonders of technology; it's hard to imagine we ever had it differently.
The thing about The Lake House is that it proved itself perfect for watching at home by the fire on a quite night. The film was obviously engineered to be watched this way, and I can say the effect on us was remarkable given that we've enjoyed watching this, an obviously mediocre film by any reckoning. That said, The Lake House is a bit of a science fiction film, and I've always been a sucker for that.
The Lake House follows Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, both separate renters of this unique house by a lake near Chicago. It actually stands over a lake, it's got glass all around so there's no privacy but great views are assured, and it's got a tree at its center. For the record, I wouldn't mind living in such a house myself (although I doubt I could withstand a Chicago winter). Anyway, we start off with Bullock leaving the house in favor of a very consuming doctor's job at a Chicago hospital; Reeves follows her into the house to find a message from Bullock asking him to forward her any letters she may receive. Aiming to follow orders, Keanu then notices his post box seems to literally have a life of its own, and quickly enough we learn that Bullock is talking to Reeves from two years into his future. Their interactions become more and more personal and they keep on exchanging messages through their mysterious mail box, never for once abusing their special relationship to forward one another winning lottery numbers or stock exchange advice. So yes, they are both naive, and they demand substantial suspension of disbelief on the viewer's part.
The real trick about The Lake House is its examination of relationships and the effects of varying degrees of openness through its examination of the Bullock/Reeves relationship. The two really fall for one another but on the other hand they don't really know one another (and on the other extra hand there is an inseparable barrier between them). This study is further investigated by drawing parallels from Bullock and Reeves' existing relationships, where the lack of openness and transparency transpire to make those less successful. The better parallel is drawn in the relationship between Reeves and his old father (played by the ever excellent Christopher Plummer): the father was so busy with his architecture career he never had the time for his son, while the attention craving son is driven to act rebelliously. In short, what The Lake is trying to tell us is that by closing ourselves down to others we're only hurting ourselves and we'll soon regret it. On the other hand, it tries to say a thing or two in favor of fatalism, and it also suggests that this time barrier between the pair of heroes is actually responsible for the success of their relationship.
At its basic level, though, The Lake House is far from a deep film; most people will just take it as a story of an impossible romance. It works on that level, but it does have issues: the dialog between the pair is shown to be made of live, internet chat like communications, yet it's all meant to take place by a post box with written messages that should take time between answers if only because Bullock is spending most of her time at work rather than by a post box. Then there is the film's abuse of the time travel paradox: it does whatever it feels like doing with the paradox, ignoring potentially easy getaways for our lovers and often countering itself.
Best scene: Reeves shows his brother around the lake house, drawing conclusions from the house's design to his relationship with his architect father. I agree: as discussed in Architecture of Happiness, architecture and the way we are have a two way relationship.
Overall: 3.5 out of 5 stars, but only in the context of a quiet night by the fire.


anivad said...

Nice review. So far I haven't found anything wrong with its time travel model, though (it's practically identical to that used to better effect in Frequency, which you should definitely check out if you're as much into time travel films as I am.)

Basically there are three timelines existing in sync, not two - one on Alex's side of the timeline, one on Kate's, with the third one in the middle acting as an information-conveyor between both.

So when Alex does something in his time (e.g. plants a tree), this information passes through the middle timeline, the tree growing in that middle timeline, and spews itself out on Kate's end as a full-grown tree appearing out of nowhere.

Same goes for everything else in the film; it all works out nicely that way.

Moshe Reuveni said...

To be honest, once I've accepted the movie's premises the time travel issues didn't bother me much. Most of the questions I have had at the beginning were answered later (e.g., why don't the two arrange a meeting at their own time). And for the record, I liked Frequency.
But then came the film's ending [major spoiler warning!!!]:
1. How come Bullock didn't remember the dead guy she attended to looked like someone she met and kissed before?
2. If Reeves did not get run over because of him following Bullock's warning, why did she have to wait an extra two years for him to show up?
I guess you can dismiss it all by saying Back to the Future did the same, but you have to admit there is some validity to the claim The Lake House breaks its own rules.

Comella said...