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A house is not a home, it seems,
Until it houses someone’s dreams,
And even if its tenant leaves,
Some part remains beneath the eaves.

Although no new dreams now reside
Within a home unoccupied,
The traces of its owners past
Remain in spirit, left to last.

These ghosts, perhaps, I’d like to meet.
Perhaps I have upon the street.
We both have shared a home, almost,
And when I move, I’ll be the ghost.

MPAA rating: PG

In honor of Valentine’s Day and her upcoming birthday, I’ll be reviewing a VC pick each week for the next month, and The Lake House is the first in her honor. As my VC well knows, I do love a good supernatural romance, especially when its otherworldly elements set it apart from the typical romantic clichés. I found The Lake House to be one of the better members of the genre, pairing Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock again twelve years after Speed.

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Based on the 2000 Korean film Il Mare, The Lake House follows Dr. Kate Forster (Bullock) and architect Alex Wyler (Reeves) as the former moves out of the titular glass home and the latter moves in. The hook is that they’re doing so two years apart, with Alex in 2004 and Kate in 2006. A mail-forwarding note that Kate leaves behind somehow ends up in Alex’s mailbox two years earlier, and the two discover that they can communicate with each other through their time-traveling letters. I personally love the idea of a pen-pal relationship spanning time itself, and even if the mailbox’s mysterious powers are never explained, the chemistry between Bullock and Reeves is just as evident here as it was in Speed, despite the fact they’re separated from each other much of the time. Also in fine form are Shohreh Aghdashloo as Kate’s doctor friend and Christopher Plummer as Alex’s father and architectural teacher who actually built the lake house.

Oddly enough, the film that kept coming to mind as I watched The Lake House was last year’s anime hit Your Name, another film where two likable characters are separated by time and tragedy and rarely get to meet face to face. Going into the similarities would require too many spoilers, but while Your Name was a better film overall, it’s worth noting the parallels to this earlier movie and the still earlier Il Mare.

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While some might consider The Lake House maudlin, I thought its emotional scenes were highly effective, whether it be the inner longing of Alex’s visit to Kate before she knows of their relationship or the retrospective of Alex’s rocky bond with his father.  As for the ending, I saw the “twist” coming a mile away, but the film kept me in doubt as to whether its separation romance would go the way of City of Angels (did NOT like) or Sleepless in Seattle (DID like). As my VC pointed out to me, the chemistry and anticipation of love between the two leads kept us invested in the outcome, and while it toyed with my expectations, the end at least provided the kind of old-fashioned satisfaction that too many modern romances try to avoid for some reason.

The only explanation I have that The Lake House isn’t List-Worthy stemmed from a review I read after seeing it, which pointed out the holes in its time-travel aspects. As much as I want to disregard them, I must admit it’s true; even the most basic laws of time travel are pretty much ignored. For instance, Alex plants a tree outside Kate’s apartment to surprise her, and in her time, it suddenly appears. While it’s a neat visual and a sweet gesture, that tree planted two years earlier should have always been there, such that Kate would never know it hadn’t been there before. Though my VC doesn’t mind, for reasons like this, The Lake House has gone down a tiny bit in my estimation, but it’s still a lovely and poignant romance, just one that shouldn’t really be thought of any deeper than a Shyamalan movie.

Best line: (Alex, of the lake house) “Dad knew how to build a house, not a home.”

VC’s best line: (Alex, after glimpsing Kate in 2004) “I don’t know if you remember, but we saw each other. That is, I saw you. You never told me… how beautiful you were.”   (Kate) “Well, maybe you saw someone else. That was a bad hair year for me.”


Rank: List Runner-Up


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