In Primer (nonsense “clever” time-travel movie last year), the chappies accidentally invent a time machine that goes back two weeks and manage to fuck their lives up with it. In The Lake House Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock discover a mail box which does exactly the same thing – but with a two year gap. In Primer the chaps spent ages fiddling with money and getting paranoid that they might get found out. Sandy and Kenny write love letters to each other. In Primer there were multiple copies of themselves inhabiting the past, worrying constantly that if they met, some awful paradox might happen. Our Lake House dwellers are quite happy to not even consider issues of paradox, or the difficult of changing fate and just get on with the love affair.
I think The Lake House is the better picture.
That’s not saying I think it is all that good. It is very unusual, in as much as there hasn’t been a straight romance (not comedy) for years. Bullock and Reeves have chemistry, proven from Speed, and here despite not really meeting manage to pad out an implausible romance. What might seem all the more implausible is that this architect and this doctor (both one assumes pretty well educated) leave the time travel concept utterly alone. Happy with their version of time-warp Instant Messenger (the letters are usually one liners, bounced back instantly), Bullock does not use her knowledge of the future to alter the past. Not because she can’t. Not because he won’t. But it is implausible to assume it is because they haven’t thought of it.
And so it stays until the final sequence where Bullock does change her past. And nothing much happens. And a nit-picker would unravel the film at this point. But I’m not going to because instead you get Reeves and Bullock hugging, and frankly that’s what you paid the money for. And perhaps they saw Primer (at least Bullock did, it hasn’t come out for Reeves yet.) Maybe they were well aware of the boring old history of time travel stories which – as soon as they get bogged down in the paradoxes of time travel – fall apart and get boring. And maybe Sandy wrote in one of the letters we didn’t see:
Dr Mr Reeves, Do not ask me to tell you what horses won the Kentucky Derby this year as you will just use it to get rich and then some sort of ironic justice will be meted out to you because that is what always happens in time travel stories. Maybe a horse will shoot you and I love you too much for that to happen. Yrs, Sandy
So instead of accidentally risking the death of their grandparents, they went with the magic realist concept, ignored their scientific and get rich quick urges and went with the romance. Of course the next sequence in the film, after the credits rolling, could be Bullock’s hand fading away, a la Marty McFly. That would work too!
(The Clientele do the theme toon by the way, which hints nicely that it might be rom but short on the com.)