Jennifer Lawrence delivers a showcase performance in Causeway as a recently injured soldier transitioning back to life in New Orleans.
The actress is completely silent during the film’s opening minutes. This is because Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence) is recently back from Afghanistan because of brain injury during an IED explosion. Sharon (Jayne Houdyshell) looks after her during the transition back to life. Things take a while to get going but she slowly gets back to living what becomes her new normal. Moving back home with her mother, Gloria (Linda Emond), means having to find some sort of job before she gets back to working as a military engineer. Cleaning pools will have to do until then. Not helping matters is a truck breaking down, which leads to a friendship with a mechanic, James Aucoin (Brian Tyree Henry).
While Lynsey and James make for the unlikeliest of friends, they both have a way of helping each other. They are both living with trauma and they are slow to open up and talk about. For James, it’s because he feels guilty for previous actions. With Lynsey, it’s her injury. There’s a bonding moment for the two of them when they’re out at a restaurant and a random dude wants to buy Lynsey a drink.
The film marks Tony-nominated theater director Lila Neugebauer’s feature debut as a director. Honestly, you could never tell because there’s such a grasp of camera placement. Having veteran actors on screen also helps to elevate the material at hand. Plus, you can never go wrong with the Oscar-winning Lawrence in a starring role. The Louisville native also produces her first film through Excellent Cadaver as she gets back to her indie roots in what is her strongest performance in a few years. It’s definitely a performance that gets her in the Best Actress conversation. While I enjoyed her work in Don’t Look Up and thought it was among the best of 2021, I personally think that this is the better performance because it’s along the lines of her work in Winter’s Bone than the blockbuster movies.
I have to say this about Brian Tyree Henry’s James. The filmmakers write him as a character with a leg amputation below one of the knees. Unfortunately for the film, this is done through the movie magic that is CGI. The industry still has a lot of work to do when it comes to full inclusion of disabled actors. Anyone stopping by the Industry Center in Toronto cannot miss the signs explicitly saying that full diversity and equality includes disability, too. I get the need for star power in order to draw in viewership and Henry puts in the research for his character. The filmmakers could have done a better job in casting an actor with a leg amputation. Otherwise, the screenwriters should just write the character to be able-bodied and without such an injury.
Causeway is a film that should serve as a reminder that nobody is alone in their grief and trauma. Everyone is going through something whether they’re an open book or don’t want to talk about it. You never know when you’re going to meet someone in a similar situation but discussing mental health is something that should never be a stigma.
DIRECTOR: Lila Neugebauer
SCREENWRITERS: Ottessa Moshfegh & Luke Goebel and Elizabeth Sanders
CAST: Jennifer Lawrence, Brian Tyree Henry, Linda Emond, Jayne Houdyshell, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Russell Harvard
Causeway holds its world premiere during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program. Apple TV+ will release the film in select theaters and streaming on November 4, 2022. Grade: 4/5
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