The Lake House (PG)
ANDREW CLARKE Sandra Bullock plays a young doctor who, assigned to a small provincial medical facility, finds herself at sea and swimming against the tide in a large Chicago hospital. Keanu Reeves also stars.
Ten years ago Sandra Bullock arrived on our cinema screens with a bang in such films as Speed and Demolition Man.
She consolidated her position with well-written, genuinely funny, romantic comedies such as While You Were Sleeping and then, in an attempt to do something different, went spectacularly off the rails with such dire message movies as 28 Days, Hope Floats and Murder By Numbers.
Keanu Reeves' up and down career is perfectly encapsulated by The Matrix movies. The first was clever, stylish and innovative, but the other two were increasingly flat copies.
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The good news for these two performers, who first met on a hijacked bus in Speed, is that this is their best film in years. We can forgive the fact that it's a remake of a Korean film, Siworae, because the script by David Auburn is so well crafted and Bullock and Reeves deliver such engaging performances.
Bullock plays a young doctor who has just finished her training period and after having been assigned to a small provincial medical facility she finds herself at sea (and swimming against the tide) in a large Chicago hospital.
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She loves her work but this leaves little time for affairs of the heart. The situation is not helped by the fact that she has just moved out of her beloved Lake House into an apartment close to the hospital.
Having had an accident victim die in her hands she drives out to her old home for a bit of peace and quiet and is astounded to find some mail for her there.
And in this innocent way she finds herself starting a long-distance, letter-based romance with young architect Alex Wyler - who she soon discovers also lived in The Lake House, but in 2004.
This magical mail box device is a good way to explore a time-travel romantic comedy and, to their credit, Reeves and Bullock play it dead straight and help to disguise all the logical plot holes and blur the edges on the many absurdities that crop up along the way.
The pair strike up a nice relationship which is characterised by their back and forth banter. When a friend quizzes Bullock over who her mystery admirer is, she deflects the questions with a smile and a quip: "Oh, it's a long-distance relationship."
Director Alejandro Agresti does exceptionally well in keeping the movie moving and helping the audience understand which year the action is taking place in. The action moves from 2004 to 2006 and ends up in 2008.
The film, which could be terribly sweet and sickly sentimental, is commendably restrained and is much better for it. The film only really succumbs to the temptation to be overly-emotional at the end.
The ever-busy Christopher Plummer is terrific as the crusty Louis Wyler, a leading Chicago architect from whose shadow Keanu's Alex Wyler is trying to escape.
Bullock and Reeves prove that they are still capable of turning in charismatic performances and can lend their roles some depth and believability.
The personal dynamics are what makes this film tick, along with some great dialogue and the rather clever, if fairly improbable, time-travel romance.
It doesn't pay to think too closely about what happens to on-screen, but providing you are prepared to go along with the flow, then it does make some kind of superficial sense.
If you are planning to see the film, then do avoid the trailer if you happen to come across it on television, or if it is in front of another movie, because it manages to give away several important plot twists and storytelling devices which work better if you don't know they are coming.
It's a great film for World Cup widows and anyone who enjoys a well-constructed romantic comedy, but I know one thing, I wouldn't want to live anywhere which any passing rambler can look into every room in the house.