I very much enjoyed watching The Lake House. The premise is intriguing — two people fall in love while living in the same house in different years through their unexplained ability to send notes to each other — and the execution is lovely, with plenty of impressive visuals to get lost in. The house is as impressive as it needs to be for a title character — a glass box on a lake near Chicago, pretending to be open but surprisingly forbidding.
Keanu Reeves does a good job as the taciturn architect with hidden depths; he plays to his strengths with silence. Sandra Bullock is always good in romances, because she can portray someone with both underlying sadness (think Hope Floats, for instance) and a core of essential optimism. She’s got a surprising range that hasn’t been often recognized. Together, they’re even better, with believable chemistry.
The interconnections are well-done both visually (soft split screens make them look as though they’re interacting, even separated by time) and emotionally (with his actions affecting her moods and her actions eventually looping in various ways). It’s a simple, classic idea that plays out in a fashion that kept me wondering “what happens next?” Why didn’t he show up? How would they get together, because they so clearly needed and wanted to be?
It plays the emotional gamut, with suspense, romance, and even fear. It’s a rewardingly old-fashioned film, with its emphasis on letter-writing and creativity (as they have to figure out how to show each other what they value). It’s also very thoughtful, leading to the viewer pondering their own questions about why they made the life decisions they did and how they made choices about love and what are the turning points where they might wonder “what if?”
It’s for adults, with a comfortable pace and more realistic life events. It’s mature and patient, and the exact kinds of people who will appreciate that are living their lives and not rushing out to the movie theater.
All of that probably explains why it wasn’t nearly as popular as it should have been. Some reports have audiences too confused over the circular timeline and wanting a clearer explanation for what was happening and why. Yet I suspect that it will continue to build an audience over time, especially among those who can appreciate its quiet charm and beauty.