Directed by: Alejandro Agresti
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, Christopher Plummer
Released in: 2006
Fantasy time travel films are a popular take on the romance genre. In this one, there’s a magic time-shifting mailbox, a dog who runs across timelines and the eponymous lake house. But for every intense Sliding Doors, there’s a The Lake House: an unromantic, boring take on the time-travel romance.
The lake house sits on wooden posts, and water laps underneath it. It’s an undeniably gorgeous greenhouse structure, designed for the best views of the lake at all times. It is home to both Alex (Keanu Reeves) and Kate (Sandra Bullock). The thing is, they don’t actually live together. Alex, an architect distant from his workaholic father, lives in the lake house in 2004. Kate has just moved out to pursue a career in the city, is living in 2006. Although Alex lives in the past, when Kate places a letter in the mailbox on the shore, it travels back in time to him.
Through the mailbox, Alex and Kate slowly start to fall in love. The romance is an easy feat for actors Reeves and Bullock, who proved in 1994’s Speed that they have sparkling chemistry. Although Alex and Kate have a connection, it’s still difficult for the actors to flesh this out. Kate and Alex barely meet, and their only contact with each other is via their letters. The Lake House is a remake of the South Korean film, Il Mare, but it seems evident that a movie is the wrong medium for this story. Kate and Alex write to each other extensively – that’s how they fall in love with each other. Their writing, their penned life stories and their bewilderment that they can really write to each other are the reasons that their love begins to blossom. It seems obvious that The Lake House would be better executed as a book rather than a movie. In its American movie form, it lacks a romantic sizzle, and the fault can only be placed on the script.
Bullock’s Kate is obsessed with Jane Austen’s Persuasion, a novel where the main characters dutifully wait for each other. There’s an awful lot of waiting around in this film. Waiting around for fate to shift, so that Alex and Kate can finally kiss. For a film centred around waiting, there’s minimal action. Rather than observing the cruel hand of time, The Lake House is boring. There’s only so much waiting around the audience can do before they start to anxiously look at their watch.
As magical as fantasy romance films can be, audiences watching this one won’t be able to suspend their disbelief for long. As this film limps through the material, it’s only thanks to the stars that the film didn’t completely drown.