It’s not rare for critics and audiences to part ways when it comes to movies, and there’s no better indicator than how many movies are critically panned but still wind up raking in more than their share of dough. This year’s video game adaptation Uncharted went above and beyond ticket sale expectations in spite of being absolutely brutalized by reviewers. Both 2018’s Venom and last year’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage broke ticket sales records in spite of being two of the worst reviewed Marvel superhero movies in years. And even though no one seems to have liked it as much as James Gunn’s so-called “soft reboot” last year, 2016’s David Ayer directed Suicide Squad made $747 million. While the 2006 fantasy romance The Lake House didn’t make anything close to those numbers, it’s another example of a movie that critics can’t stand while fans can’t seem to get enough of it. Starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, The Lake House began streaming on Netflix over the weekend.
You’ve heard of “star-crossed” lovers? Well how about lovers separated not by stars or distance, but by time? That’s the premise of The Lake House. When Dr. Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock) finally leaves her beloved lake house for good, she leaves a letter in the mailbox for the next tenant. That’s in 2006. But in 2004, two years earlier, architect Alex Wyler finds the letter in the mailbox that waits in front of the same lake house. Confused, he writes back and when Kate impulsively returns to the house, she finds it. Soon, the pair are somehow corresponding across time, and they can even see the flag on the mailbox go up and down as they put more letters in the box. They fall in love this way and by the end, Kate finds herself rushing to stop a tragedy. You can see the trailer for the film below.
The Lake House was based on the 2000 South Korean film Il Mare, and directed by Argentine filmmaker Alejandro Agresti from a screenplay by David Auburn (Charlie’s Angels, 2019). It was the first film that Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock worked on together since the 1994 action hit Speed. Its cast also boasted the late, great Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World) as Kate’s father, Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Girls) as Alex’s brother Henry, Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Expanse) as Kate’s friend and boss, Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck) as Kate’s overbearing boyfriend, Willeke van Ammelrooy (Antonia’s Line) as Kate’s mother, and Lynn Collins (John Carter) as Alex’s assistant who carries a torch for him.
In spite of an impressive cast and an intriguing concept, critics were not at all happy with The Lake House. The fantasy romance is burdened with a 35% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. Words like “cheesy,” “boring,” and “implausible” appear frequently in the reviews. Writing for The Guardian, Mark Kermode ends his review with, “The last time [Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock] were together on screen the result was Speed. This should have been entitled Stop.” But you don’t need to wait until the end to figure out Kermode’s opinion. He opens the review with “What the hell is it with Sandra Bullock’s lousy choice of movies?”
But the fans are much more forgiving towards Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, and the film as a whole. The critics’ score of 35% is contrasted by an audience score of 73%. Scan through some of the audience reviews, and you’ll see the fans admit that, yeah, a lot of the time travel aspects in the story don’t make a whole lot of sense. But, if you can look past that and turn your appreciation for romance on, you’ll have a good time.
If you’re interested at all in seeing Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in The Lake House and you’re already a Netflix subscriber, why not give it a shot? If you end up agreeing with the critics, you can always just turn it off and watch Arcane or Stranger Things. If you end up agreeing with the fans, then that’s one more great movie under your belt. If nothing else, you can say you saw a Bullock/Reeves movie where they didn’t spend the entire time on public transportation.