The Lake House (2006)

A love story is ultimately about mechanics – once the feeling is established the rest of the story revolves around the “how.” A time-travel love story seems like a good idea on paper; there is an extra layer of difficulty for the lovers to overcome – an added dimension, so to speak. It seems obvious that the storytellers should avoid literalism.

The Lake House is a remake of a South Korean film, Siworae. It has also been presented in a wonderfully effective 2-minute version – the theatrical trailer for the 2006 U.S. remake. Unfortunately, the 105-minute film is a dud, the more so because there are moments that almost work, and we long for what might have been. David Auburn wrote this screenplay, but its lacks both the impact and the nuance of his best work (he wrote the Pulitzer-prize winning Proof, both for the stage and for the screen.) This film is dreadfully literal; to make matters worse, the literal trappings are howlingly bad – at one point the audience is asked to believe that when one character plants a sapling in the year 2004, it appears out of thin air as a fully grown tree in the year 2006.

It’s a risky move to highlight significant works of art to make a point – Jane Austin’s novel Persuasion is a significant reference in this film. The reference is at once a shortcut and a cheat – it is supposed to suggest that “love will transcend time,” but the filmmakers never bother to figure out how it applies to their characters or to this plot.

As a minor gripe, for a film with the words “The Lake House” in the title, the actual lake house has very little to do with the film itself. It might as well have been an inner city condo – again, it’s obvious that some kind of “deep meaning” should be attached to the house and the feelings it is supposed to arouse in each character (such feelings are never convincingly demonstrated.) Ultimately, like most of the movie, the house is a cheat.

I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for this kind of story. I’m rooting for love to save the day and I’m ready with my box of tissues (I needed them when I watched the trailer.) In wonder…wouldn’t it have been more interesting to consider a love that blooms across time, simply on the strength of written words between two people? Forget about direct “conversation” between the two characters – let them fall in love with the idea of each other, and then figure out how to make THAT work. The Lake House suggests such a possibility when the protagonist is explaining how she’s in love with someone she can never meet. “He must write on hell of a letter,” her friend replies. Now that’s the seed of an interesting story.