There is no reason why 'The lake house', a Hollywood remake of the South Korean film 'Il Mare', should succeed, but it does. The setup itself begs the film to either be science fiction or a spookfest, but it is neither. It is a love story, one where logic goes out the door the minute we find out what's happening, and realise that this simply cannot occur. The bewildering nature of the film lies in its setup. We have two people – single and lonely yet successful at what they do, who discover one another by accident only to learn that they cannot be together because they live two years apart, in different timelines. How can this be? The film doesn't explain, it cannot be bothered by the physics of the time travel paradox (where actions in the past, when changed, tamper with the outcomes in the predetermined present).
Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock) is a workaholic doctor in present day Chicago who, when we first meet her, is moving out of her lovely, serene lakeside house. Prudently, she leaves a welcome note in the mailbox for the new tenant Alex (Keanu Reeves), who we see move in right after she has vacated. He is politely asked to forward any letters he might receive in her absence, to her new address, even though, she assures him, she has made appropriate changes to her address where needed. The mail also apologizes for the paw marks left on the front walkway that leads to the entrance of the house, but there are none, until at that every moment when Alex is reading the letter a dog walks by the walkway, steps on wet paint and leaves his paw marks. What's happening here, Alex asks in a reply which he leaves in the same mailbox and why is Kate using a future date in her letters. He finds out she isn't, she is in the future (our present) and him in the past, two years before. Being the sedate people that they are, they are neither stunned nor puzzled by this; they simply accept the situation (as do we) and move on with their conversations. The film breezes through these on screen monologues of tête-à-tête, until they decide to meet – him in her future, and complications force them to rethink both their situations.
There is so much possibility in the initial setup, and hardly any of it is realized. This thought bothered me during my viewing of the film because I was expecting it to acknowledge the appeals and complications of time travel films, but it never does. This is because it only uses this initial idea to set the base and then contends itself with being about the complex desires of the heart, not the complex logic of the human mind. What works best in 'The Lake house' and certainly to its advantage, for the greater part of its running time, is the romance, played out like unrequited love in Alex's past world and like unfulfilled desire in Kate's present time. If you let yourself be swallowed in the delightful chemistry shared by the two leads even when being apart, or the richness of director Alejandro Agresti's camerawork, you are bound to leave happy with what you see. If love is an irrational, sometimes inexplicable feeling, then 'The Lake house' takes that notion and turns it into a charming, sometimes irrational film. - Faizan Rashid