The Lake House

The Lake House
Feeling that its time for a change in her life, Dr. Kate Forester (SANDRA BULLOCK) leaves the suburban Illinois locale where she completed her residency and takes a job at a busy Chicago hospital. One thing she is reluctant to leave behind is the uniquely beautiful house she has been renting - a spacious and artfully designed refuge with large windows that overlook a placid lake. Its a place in which she felt her true self.

It is a winter morning in 2006.

On her way to the city, Kate leaves a note in the mailbox for lake houses next tenant, asking him to forward her mail and noting that the inexplicable painted paw prints he might notice by the front door were there when she moved in.

But when the next tenant arrives, he sees a much different picture. Alex Wyler (KEANU REEVES), a talented but frustrated architect working at a nearby construction site, finds the lake house badly neglected: dusty, dirty, overgrown with weeds. And no sign of paw prints anywhere.

The house has special meaning for Alex. In a happier time it was built by his estranged father (CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER), a renowned architect who let his professional acclaim grow at the expense of his family life. Alex feels a sense of peace here now and commits to restoring the property to its original beauty. He disregards Kates note until, days later, while painting the weather-beaten jetty he sees a stray dog run across the fresh paint and then towards the entrance of the house, leaving paw prints exactly where she said theyd be.

Baffled, Alex writes back, saying that the house had no occupant before him and wondering how she could have known about the dog; while Kate, who just left it a week ago imagines he is playing some kind of joke on her and fires back a reply.

Just for arguments sake, what day is it there?
April 14, 2004.
No, she says. Its April 14, 2006.
The same day, two years apart.
Can this be happening?

As Kate and Alex continue to correspond through the lake houses mailbox they confirm that they are, incredibly, impossibly, living two years apart, and each at a time in their lives when they are struggling with past disappointments and trying to make a new start. Sharing this unusual bond, they reveal more of themselves to one another with each passing week - their secrets, their doubts and dreams, until they find themselves falling in love.

Determined to bridge the distance between them at last and unravel the mystery behind their extraordinary connection, they tempt fate by arranging to meet. But, by trying to join their two separate worlds, they could risk losing each other forever.

Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves reunite on screen for the first time since the 1994 blockbuster Speed, in a romantic drama from Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David Auburn, The Lake House.

In cinemas July 27th

My verdict:
Screenwriters clearly enjoy going to great lengths for new twist in the "girl meets boy" stakes. There's been sexual confusion ('Kissing Jessica Stein', 'Imagine Me and You'), falling in love with someone who's in a coma ('While You Were Sleeping'), unrequited love ('My Best Friend's Wedding', 'The Object of My Affection'), and even looking for love in alternate realities ('Sliding Doors', 'Somewhere in Time') - the very definition of "all the wrong places". 'Sleepless in Seattle' went one step too far, expecting audiences to sit through almost the whole film while the couple avoided contact. 'The Lake House' employs a little of this kind of daft spiritualism but manages to throw in some conversation and a few ideas as well.

Adapted from a Korean film, 'The Lake House' is cleverly written, albeit full of moments that require you to not merely suspend your disbelief but rip it out and slap it around a few times. Still, while a long way from gritty realism, this film has a certain refreshing sincerity. It's not just perfect people whining about their perfect lives. Kate (Sandra Bullock) has no wonderfully sassy best friend to confide in every five minutes. Alex (Keanu Reeves) brushes off Mona (Lynn Collins), a woman who's interested in him, as through he hardly notices her. He's more like a Buddhist monk on a quest for enlightenment than the cocky man-child typical of such films. Ultimately, 'The Lake House' is sustained by the likeability of the two leads. Even when they're not doing much they're quite entertaining about it. She's a doctor, he's an architect - okay, so not startling in originality but at least she doesn't work for a fashion magazine and he doesn't build wooden boats while wearing ridiculous jumpers (well, only once or twice - what is it about rom coms and outlandish knitwear?).

This is also a film with a richer sense of aesthetics than is typical of mainstream fare. The architectural theme allows for some enjoyable shots of Chicago buildings - and another interesting performance from Christopher Plummer in a small role as Alex's emotionally distant father. For Alex, the glass box that is the lake house is a symbol of his past, of the love his parents shared but could not sustain. But as the story progresses it becomes, for both Alex and Kate, a reminder of what their lives should be and are not - the embodiment of their aspirations. You're either going to go with this film or you're not. This is earnestly romantic stuff and if you can't hack it you'd better be warned right now.

Rating : ***

Briony Kidd