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An ode to Keanu Reeves in time travel romance The Lake House
Like a fine wine or top-shelf whiskey, Keanu Reeves is getting better with age. Not only did John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum unseat box office juggernaut Avengers: Endgame, but a fourth movie in the series has just been announced. The sharp suit-wearing badass isn’t Reeves’ only project in the coming weeks; he is also the voice of the handlebar mustache-wearing Duke Caboom in Toy Story 4 and a thigh-appreciating love interest in the Netflix rom-com Always Be My Maybe. Next year he will be back as Ted “Theodore” Logan in the highly anticipated Bill and Ted sequel. Everything is coming up Keanu.
The so-called Keanussance covers multiple genres, but Reeves has always picked a diverse range of projects appealing to a variety of tastes. In a career that has spanned over 30 years, this versatility is part of his charm. Yeah, he can kick ass as John Wick or Neo, but he can also play a romantic lead. With this in mind, let’s go back to 2006 when Reeves reunited with Speed co-star Sandra Bullock for a movie that swapped out a bomb as the central plot device for a mailbox with time travel abilities. The only thing that might explode in The Lake House is emotions.Reeves plays Alex Wyler, an architect with daddy issues living in 2004 who ends up communicating with Bullock’s Dr. Kate Forrester who is two years in the future. A remake of the South Korean drama Il Mare, The Lake House explores love, fate, and loneliness via a mailbox that delivers letters across time.
Computers exist, but this might as well be set in the '80s as Alex and Kate never think to look each other up or even email each other, because where is the romance in that? If this movie was made in 2019 there is no way they could avoid each other on social media (now I want to see that version of this film). Instead, they write their feelings down, bouncing ideas off each other and revealing their deepest truths as if they are one another's journal and/or therapist — except they are definitely horny for each other, too.
Two years separate the architect and the doctor — the quintessential careers of characters in a romance — but they manage to interact beyond letter writing as 90 minutes of scribbling would make for a dull viewing experience. Obviously, Alex is the guy to root for — he's played by Keanu after all — but he delivers a number of big gestures to ensure the audience knows he is The One. When Kate laments that her city apartment lacks the beautiful foliage, which surrounds the lake house, Alex brings the trees to her.He plans out a walking tour of all his favorite Chicago buildings so they can spend a Saturday afternoon together like regular couples, leaving her a cursive graffitied message at one of the locations to make it seem more real. As with a lot of time travel stories you have to suspend your disbelief, but I find it hard to believe a message this sprawling would still be there two years later untouched. There is no way someone wouldn't add a penis or expletive. Reeves' iconic white tee of Speed is switched out for a white button-down by costume designer Deena Appel — this is romantic Keanu, not action Keanu. Bathrobes, heavy winter coats, hoodies and an array of earth tones are all part of his wardrobe. The latter culminates in a look that suggests Alex is actually a professor who has time traveled from a key party in the 1970s. A chunky ribbed knit turtleneck paired with a suede jacket is his seduction ensemble and while it is no white Speed tee or John Wick suit, Keanu still sells the hell out of this look. Picking an outfit to meet the love of your life is no easy task, particularly when you know exactly what is at stake. Alex wants to make a good impression as this is not only the first time he will meet Kate IRL, but it is also when they share their first dance and first kiss. At this point, she has no idea who he is, but he is everything her current boyfriend is not. He takes the time to listen to her and even asks about her favorite book, Jane Austen's Persuasion — the plot of which just so happens to describe their situation perfectly.
At this midway point, there is a power imbalance, because even though Kate has two years advantage, the Kate in his timeline is in the dark. He knows so much about her and he uses it to his advantage. He doesn't go full creep, but their first kiss is not as romantic as the movie probably thinks it is. Thankfully, the power dynamic shifts to a level playing field later in the film and Alex holds back.The Lake House isn’t too concerned with “the rules” of time travel as there is never any fear that someone will fade from a photograph or a suggestion of world-altering events. No bets are placed on the Red Sox winning the World Series; instead, this is very much a story focusing on two characters falling love but stuck in different times.
The titular lake house with a tree growing through its middle gets a backstory — it is part of why Alex and his dad have a terrible relationship — but there is never an explanation behind the magical mailbox. It is not imbued with mystical power a la Outlander and it isn’t a hereditary gift similar to Domhnall Gleeson's experience in About Time.Romantic time travel stories are often less about saving the world and more about the notion of soul mates that defy the usual dating obstacles. The letters aren’t the only thing that makes their way across the mid-00s, as Kate gets a copy of Alex’s father’s memoirs to him after he dies. His dad was emotionally avoidant, but he gets a glimpse at a past he has forgotten allowing him to make peace with his present. After all, there are other ways to time travel. He sobs into the pages, unleashing years of emotion and showing that Alex is the softest of the Keanus.
Alex might not have the fighting prowess of John Wick, but he does share his love for canines. In addition to their letters, Kate and Alex also share a dog named Jack. Jack plays an important role, but thankfully there is no John Wick-level of animal peril.Time might seem like the biggest obstacle, but really it is death that gets in the way. After planning to meet two years in Alex’s future and Kate's present at a fancy restaurant, he doesn't show up. His excuse is pretty ironclad as he is dead. And in a twist of fate, he was hit by a car on his way to meet Kate AND she tried to save his life. When she figures all of this out she pleads for him to wait, to not cross that street. And guess what! Time is on their side. None of this makes any sense because their entire correspondence should be undone, but Alex shows up in his best-ribbed turtleneck sweater and smooches the hell out of her face — they won the Teen Choice “Best Liplock” Award for this very handsy kiss.
Logic doesn’t matter in time travel romance, but who cares about rules when Keanu Reeves is given the opportunity to flex his romantic side?