April 12, 2020
Between my husband’s work and my writing — this blog, my fiction, my actual work that I do for actual money — we only have snatches of time to sit down and watch something together. And when we do, he insists that it be light. He gets enough drama in the exam room.
It seems like for the last year or so, we’ve been puttering our way through Schitt’s Creek, on Netflix. I’m not going to get into that here, as I’m sure many of you have seen this fantastic little comedy out of the Canadian Broadcast Company. And if you haven’t, for heaven’s sake, stop everything and start watching now (the first season is spotty but after that it’s regularly hilarious and poignant at the same time).
No, I’m going to advocate for a movie that hasn’t been in the theaters for 14 years. The Lake House isn’t great drama. It’s not the kind of film that makes Academy voters check a ballot box. It doesn’t even make much sense.
But it’s kind, and sweet. The sets are lovely. The people are pretty. And when it’s done, you lay back on the sofa and say, “Ahhh.”
Plus, as I wrote above, it’s illogical. You’ll be scratching your head about it long after the credits roll. Which means you won’t be thinking about… well, you know.
It stars Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. If you’re like me and my husband, you’ll spend the first fifteen minutes of the movie trying to catalog exactly what Bullock’s done to her face — the Botox, the fillers, the plastic surgery. That alone is a welcome distraction from our present moment.
Then you start wondering about the mailbox.
Here’s the conceit. Bullock’s character lives in 2006. Reeves’ character lives in 2004. Each of them, in their separate times, inhabits the same lake house. This lake house is striking and glamorous and modern, with vast expanses of glass. But strangely, it has an old, battered mailbox with one of those red flags that you put up when you’ve left mail inside for the postal carrier, and which they put down when they’ve collected your letter and left new mail for you to pick up.
Why did the architect — Reeves’ character — not give his gorgeous house an equally gorgeous mailbox? A mystery worth yet a few more minutes of your time.
But you won’t dwell on that too long because here’s the story’s central enigma: the mailbox is magical. It can swallow a letter from 2004 and regurgitate it in 2006. And vice versa. Every time a letter shows up in one of those years, the red flag slides down, signalling its arrival.
It doesn’t even have to be a letter. A scrap of paper with a question scribbled on it qualifies. This way, a conversation between two people in two separate years can be had at the speed of, say, texting.
There are so many issues to consider here. What happens if an actual mailman (or woman) comes? Will they see the letters and scraps of paper in the mailbox? If so, what will they do with them? Or are these notes and scraps only visible to Bullock and Reeves?
Does the postal service even make it out this far in the woods?
Why doesn’t Reeves try harder, earlier, to track down Bullock in 2004? Why doesn’t she try to look him up in 2006?
And why is nobody losing their minds over this freakish mailbox? Didn’t anyone think to call the scientists? The psychics? The government? The local TV reporters? Are mailboxes that facilitate time travel only mildly surprising in this universe? If so, what the hell else is going on?
This is why you should watch The Lake House. Not because of its quality, but because of its hypnotic strangeness, all tied up in an attractive, romantic drama bow.
The perfect movie for our imperfect time.