The Lake House

The Lake House (2006)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, Christopher Plummer, Shohreh Aghdashloo
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Single Outtake, Theatrical Trailer

"I've been trying to forget you… and forgive you."

As I sat watching "The Lake House" in the comfort of my home theater, I found myself coming to the slow realization that I needed to hate this film. My fascination with time-bending tales that swirl around the pursuit of love and happiness, begins and ends with "Twelve Monkeys". Many other sci-fi movies have tried to engage me on both fronts and have failed miserably. Unfortunately, as much as I tried, as determined as I was, I found myself enjoying this heart warming, albeit average, romantic tale.

Our story opens with two, mildly-depressive dreamers, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, who lead lives of loneliness and heartache. She moves to the city and he moves into a glass house on the lake that she once occupied. He's dating a flighty tart and she's engaged to a career-driven bore, but neither is happy. Through a series of convenient correspondences, Reeves and Bullock begin a relationship through letters they send to each other. The twist is they soon discover that he lives two years in the past. Somehow, in ways that go thankfully unexplained, their letters reach each other in their respective time periods.

There are two major problems here. First, the storyline is so loosely constructed that you'll find yourself asking too many questions. Why doesn't he inquire about the future more? Why doesn't he try to pursue a relationship with her in the past? Why does this woman have the worst memory on the planet? The list goes on and on and these questions point to significant plot holes. Second, the script occasionally tosses out lines of dialogue that are so gut-churningly awful and packed with cliché, that you'll wonder if someone threw in a different movie. Could we forget winners like: "Even though this is clearly impossible, it's amazing". Or how about: "Oh, a comedian. What… did you eat clown for breakfast?" Plus, I swear to God, this precious diamond in the rough: "I'm an architect. I like to build." That one comes straight out of Neo himself and I almost hit the floor rolling.

These quibbles aside, there are some redeeming qualities to the film – mainly the cinematography and the performances. Almost every shot could be frozen and hung in an art gallery and you can tell that very careful attention was taken into making everything seem more beautiful than is realistically possible. This submerges the film in a dreamlike haze that helped create a nice tone. The cast is strong and the only stumbling block is Reeves. His dramatic performance is good, but he fails to sell some of the weaker lines. However, Christopher Plummer appears with a wonderful, and all too brief, performance as Reeves' father. The best scene in the movie doesn't take place between the two lovers, but between Reeves and Plummer in his hospital suite.

With all of these ups and downs in the balance… and knowing that I should hate the film… why did I end up enjoying it? I'm a sucker. I have a few thematic weaknesses that reduce me to a lip-quivering child every time they show up on screen. And just my luck, two of them show up in full force in "The Lake House". I'm an absolute sap for true love being lost after it's obtained… and I go fetal when shaky relationships between fathers and sons speed toward a cathartic end. Both of these themes are pure, cinematic kryptonite and hardwire my loyalty into almost any well constructed movie in which they appear.

"The Lake House" comes on an HD-DVD / DVD combo disc, a concept that has quietly divided fans of the HD-DVD format. The standard definition side looked exactly as you would expect – not so impressive. The high definition side, much to my surprise, didn't look much better… even in 1080p resolution. Don't misunderstand, it is a leap ahead of the DVD version but it really failed to provide any sort of visual punch during my viewing. Faces and clothing texture in close-ups exhibit the same earthiness and realism that most high definition releases can brag about, but everything else in the film feels a tad soft around the edges. Like the movie, it's not bad… it's just not that great.

The audio is presented on the HD-DVD side of the disc in Dolby Digital Plus surround sound and is a wonderful improvement over the standard DVD audio track. The sound on the HD-DVD was noticeably fuller and more three-dimensional, swimming from speaker to speaker and creating a nice soundfield throughout the film that added to the dreamy tone of the visuals. I'd also like to mention the soundtrack, something I consider to be the best part of "The Lake House". Included are excellent selections from Paul McCartney, The Clientele, Nick Drake, and The Eels. Each one is perfect and, as a soundtrack buff, I quickly put this on my list of titles to pick up. The score, by Rachel Portman, is also lovely with a welcome reliance on strings and piano which come together for an extremely relaxing listen.

The disc skimps on supplemental features and only provides a trailer and a handful of deleted scenes, with one outtake mixed in for good measure. Two of the deleted scenes should've been left in the film but the others were clearly exorcised for good reason. The bizarre outtake with Christopher Plummer gave me a quick laugh but seemed entirely out of place. Was this the only time something funny happened on set? Why just show one outtake instead of tossing a couple together? On top of all this, I would've liked to seen a trailer for the Korean version of the film, "Il Mare"… or even a featurette about the two versions of this story.

"The Lake House" is two entirely different movies for two entirely different kinds of people. If you're a fan of romances and enjoy feeling the tension of lovers separated by insurmountable obstacles, you'll most likely adore this film. If you're a fan of science fiction, particularly in the time travel sub-genre, you'll loathe this film. If you're somewhere in the middle or share my weaknesses… you'll be as confused about how you feel afterwards as I am.