Shaping an entire story around one potent metaphysical metaphor, "Life as a House" overcomes many contrived and manipulative plot elements to prevail as a genuinely moving fable about a man building his dream house as he's dying of cancer.
The whimsically earnest Kevin Kline stars as George Monroe, a ramshackle guy with a ramshackle house that he's been talking about tearing down for 20 years. His wife left him when their now-teenage son was a toddler because George's lack of dedication extended to their marriage as well. The neighbors on his posh sea cliff cul-de-sac also turn up their noses at George and his eyesore of a peeled-paint hovel -- but since he enjoys tweaking those noses, that's OK by him.
Ironically, George is an architect -- albeit an architect so stuck in his ways that he's fired for refusing to get with the times and design on a computer. Long ago he blue-printed his dream home for the lot where his crumbling cottage stands -- but until he learns he's not long for this world, he's never had the tenacity to follow through.
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The film is expected to continue without Mendes' involvement.