Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “Why don’t they just set a date and agree to meet?” Don’t worry, The Lake House thought of that. There’s plenty else they didn’t think of, but they did cover the bases at least.
The Lake House Movie Review
This romance has a fascinating time travel premise. At this lake house, architect Alex (Keanu Reeves) in 2004 corresponds with doctor Kate (Sandra Bullock) in 2006. They fall in love but remain separated by two years despite their best efforts to connect.
Here’s how they handle the skeptics early on. One, why are they using the lake house mailbox and not the post office? Well, it is the middle of nowhere. Why doesn’t 2004 Alex just go to Kate’s forwarding address to clear the whole thing up? Her apartment isn’t built yet in ’04. And yes, they do try setting dates but it gets complicated.
Visually, there are some interesting stylistic choices to portray the characters’ separation. Split screen shots, dissolving one into the other, and just the mailbox flag going up and down on its own use small actions to convey a big theme.
Then the conventions of making this relationship movie friendly become awful. Both characters talk aloud to themselves. I don’t care if real people do that. It automatically feels like the movie is talking to us because they don’t know how to show what’s going on.
They violate the device of the mailbox pretty early on by having the voiceovers have fluid conversations. If Kate is following a map that Alex left for her, they can’t talk about stuff she’s seeing along the way. They’re writing letters. It has to be all in one correspondence. They certainly can’t interrupt each other because they’re not writing one-liners when they’re sitting on a bench somewhere. Don’t dumb down your gimmick by faking it into cute conversations.
And I know this isn’t a rollicking sci-fi romp, but neither of the characters have any fun with this wonderful time travel device. It makes them both seem fake, because any normal person would at least say, “Tell me who to bet on in the Superbowl next year” or “Don’t watch that movie, you’ll be disappointed.” Making it all about the issues is just a sad lack of creativity.
The Lake House compensates for any of its time travel subtlety with overdone sweeping camera moves. Seriously, every time the camera swirls around, it just adds five seconds to a scene of people entering buildings. Those seconds add up. Shots just linger and this is time they could have spent exploring the premise.