Lake Effects tells the story of a mother and her two daughters striving to reconnect after the death of their husband and father. Sara, played by Scottie Thompson, moved to Los Angeles after going to college. She has not returned home to Virginia because of a secret she found out about her father. Meanwhile, Lily, played by Madeline Zima, is still living at home working as an art teacher in an elementary school. When their father (Jeff Fahey), gets into a fatal accident, Sara comes home for the funeral. Sara, Lily, and their mother, Vivian (Jane Seymour), must figure out how they can all keep going without their father/husband and stay connected as a family.
The writing in Lake Effects, has its problems. One of the biggest is how they treat Sara coming back for the funeral. The town in Virginia is supposed to be a small one, yet when Sara comes back from Los Angeles, she doesn’t know anyone with the exception of an old flame. At one point, a woman working in the grocery store states that she remembers seeing Sara her whole life but yet Sara doesn’t know who she is. This occurs repeatedly throughout the movie. This doesn’t make sense and it can be distracting at times, leaving you wondering how she grew up in this town yet goes away for a few years and totally forgets everyone.
One part of the story that works pretty well is the resolution to the main conflict of the movie. At one point there are two possible solutions to the conflict, solution A is the more realistic one, while solution B is the ‘Hallmark’ one. The movie chose to go with solution A, which is great except the problem comes in with the way in which it is handled. The build up to the final solution is done on screen, but then all of a sudden the solution is taking place without seeing any of the real work. This makes the realistic solution seem magical, and thus more like solution B, “Hallmarky”. This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if there were not other parts of the movie that are lacking as well.
The premise of the story is decent and could have been pulled off well had it been for better writing. Sara has a misunderstanding as a teenager leading her to a decision, which she finds out may not have been the completely right one. But at the same time, perhaps this misunderstanding gave her the push she needed to fulfill her dreams. The main story is intertwined with a B-storyline, one about “Smithy” a lizard from the lake. It is disconnected from the main action, although the movie attempts to connect the two by creating a second love connection and having Ray, the father, be the one who first saw the lizard. These ‘connections’ in the end, seemed contrived and do little to lend to the overall story.
It is strange to watch a TV movie where Jane Seymour seems more of supporting character than the main. Although she is credited second in the opening, her character appears more of the third or fourth in importance to the story, thus a supporting character. For Seymour, who was once called “The Queen of TV movies”, this seems strange. Although it makes sense in the storyline, and as Seymour is older now her roles are not going to be the main characters anymore. For someone who is a fan of Seymour, she just doesn’t get enough screen time!
This DVD has the extended version of Lake Effects, which originally aired on the Hallmark Channel as an original movie. It was filmed on location in Smith Mountain Lake and inspired by the community. It features the real homes, business, and other venues around the community as well as some of the actual town residents. The DVD also includes a making of vignette, The Ripple Effect: The Making of Lake Effects, and deleted scenes.