June 19, 2006

Movie Review: The Lake House

The trailers for this reminded me of Frequency, and how could they not? Frequency's concept revolved around a short wave radio that connected a son with his father thirty years in the past. The Lake House takes that idea and exchanges the radio for a mailbox, and the thriller aspects for a more romantic slant. The two films are not connected, at least to my knowledge, but that is the impression I got the first time I heard of it.

The Lake House is a remake of Korean film Il Mare. It seems that Hollywood is no longer content to remain within the confines of the horror genre that has been so popular over the past few years, now they are branching out into other areas. I admit to not seeing Il Mare, all I can remember reading of it are the fact that it was positively reviewed. I must also admit that the fact that it was based off of an Asian film made the prospect of seeing it all the more appealing, not to mention I was mildly interested in the Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock reunion a dozen years after Speed made both of them stars.

This movie had me completely engrossed from start to finish. I am not usually affected by films within the so-called "chick flick" genre, a distinction I don't like to make, but is an effective short hand when talking to friends. I was curious as to the mechanics of this mailbox, how it worked, if there was some sort of supernatural explanation, or was it some kind of space/time anomaly. That is what I wanted to know, along with the potential for timeline screwups. Those were some of the things I was looking forward to seeing , but those thoughts didn't last long as I become enveloped in the intertwining lives through time.

Kate Forster (Bullock) leaves a letter for the next tenant of the glass lake house that she is leaving. Her letter is received by Alex Wyler (Reeves) as he moves in. He reads the letter and is puzzled by some of the things that she wrote, so he writes a letter in return. Kate gets the letter when she pays another visit to the house, in an attempt to escape her lonely life as a disconnected doctor who recently lost a patient who was in a tragic car accident. She reads the letter and finds something a little curious, he dated the letter 2004. Kate assumes it to be a mistake, but soon they are trading letters, almost instantaneously. The pair then realize that they are communicating through time, two years to be exact.

Instead of wondering how they are able to communicate, they get swept up in the fact that they are. They come to know each other inside and out, as soon as you get past the impossibility of the chain of events, you will too. There are small details that play out in the most unexpected ways. Their lives come together and diverge a few times during the two years. Alex comes to find her, and recognize her, while she knows nothing about who this mysterious stranger is, two years in the past. Future (present?) Kate has time to plan out a potential future for the two as she passes notes back to him. Alex falls head over heels for future Kate and vows to wait, despite the obstacles.

Watching this romance play out is so involving, you find yourselves rooting for them through time. You want them to get together. The obstacles and paradoxes in their way are enough to boggle the mind, but if you just accept the plot device, it becomes this wonderful world where crazy things happen and magic is the result.

The chemistry between Reeves and Bullock is incredible. The pair create sparks even when they aren't together onscreen, which is much of the movie. I cannot say that their performances were great, as they both seem to be riffing on other characters they've done, or in Reeves' case, his only character. However, the performances were completely effective. Supporting our duo on their collision course through time is a fine supporting cast. Among the support is Shohreh Agdashloo (House of Sand & Fog, 24) plays a co-worker of Bullock with her wonderful voice, Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck) as Bullock's on/off boyfriend, Christopher Plummer as Reevies' estranged father, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Reeves' brother.

The film was directed by Alejandro Agresti, making his English language debut. He does a fantastic job at keeping this film on track. The constant movement through time cannot be an easy thing to keep straight, the flip flopping could have easily gotten away from him, but the reigns are held firm en route to crafting an emotionally involving film. He directed based on David Auburn's screenplay, which was inspired by Eun-Jeong Kim's original writing for Il Mare.

One last thing, as I ramble on. This movie is a fine example of a difference I have found between Hollywood projects and the films of Asia. The Lake House is clearly from the Asian school of filmmaking. I have found that the audience is expected to accept more with less explanation in Asia than American audiences are. A lot less is explained, which makes way for more emotion, and a less linear flow, hence no explanation for the mailbox. I loved it.

Bottomline. This movie caught me completely by surprise. I was definitely not expecting what I got. The story and the performances had me at complete attention, I was actually emotionally invested in the outcome of this time crossed potential lovers. Now I have to seek out Il Mare. This is one not to be missed.

Highly Recommended.
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Anonymous said...

Great review Chris. Engrossing movie.

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