Ever wondered what would you do if you only had a month left to live? To each his own way of spending the last moments of his life, and George Monroe (Kevin Kline), who has been diagnosed with cancer and is terminally ill, decides to patch things up with his son whose custody had been given to his ex-wife long ago.
The thing is, Sam Monroe (Hayden Christensen) is no saint. He's pierced all over the place, he paints his eyes black and he dresses up in black. He's ultra-rebellious, emotionally inaccessible thus making him a loner, a drug user since he was twelve and he hates everybody. It doesn't stop there, because Sam also does small-time prostitution to pay for his drugs. His mother has long given up hope of any changes in Sam's attitude but George is certain that after the summer that they are going to spend together building a house, Sam will change. Maybe not completely, but at least he'll get Sam to love him, which is what he wants. George's magic words still linger in my mind, "Build this house with me."
So Sam is forced to spend the summer with his father against his will, not knowing why and not knowing how. To make things worse, they'll be spending it in a shack adjacent to the future house, with no proper plumbing and of course, no Internet connection. The only thing that makes it bearable is the fact that the house is built on a rock facing the sea and that the neighbour's daughter, Alyssa (Jena Malone), is a gorgeous girl, prompting Sam to stay put.
And for the next couple of months, George and Sam don't only build a house together. They also re-build the father and son relationship which has long been damaged by the divorce, they build love, and they build respect in Sam. Something he never had.
It's amazing what the house represents. George compares the house with his life. It doesn't need to be big, it doesn't need to be beautiful, it just needs to be his, and he is what he wants to be. The house witnesses how George's health deteriorates by the second, how his ex-wife falls in love with him all over again, how the bad guy (in this case, it's Sam's friend Josh, the one who lured him into drugs and prostitution at the first place) got the bad luck he deserved, and how even the most rebellious can change into a decent human being who loves what he has and what he'll soon lose.
Although the whole house metaphor is so slammin'-in-your-face obvious, I mean, the tearing down of the old house, the building of a new one, everything... still, the execution of this movie is beautiful. So beautiful you feel the need to freeze frame it in your mind. I've never seen a better use of the Californian coast and sunset, and I've never seen a better place to build a house. I've never seen a movie like this, that pushes me and pulls me and moves me around. Hayden is so much better in this movie than he is in Star Wars. I'm not a Star Wars fan, so I don't know much, but from the few bits of Star Wars that I've seen, I know for a fact that he sucks as Darth whatever-his-name-is.
I'm a nit-picker, and it's so easy for me to find faults in every movie I watch. But with "Life As A House", I, too, change in a wonderful way. I didn't nit-pick, and I think I like it. Everybody who's anybody needs to see this beautiful piece of art, because well... it's simply amazing (mind you, I watched this right after The Green Mile, and I surprisingly find it to be way way better, better by a mile haha).
Kahuna-o-meter : 9/10
Sam : You knew you were dying from the start?
George : We're all dying from the start. I just got moved to the head of the line.