Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.
Release Date: October 28th, 2022 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Lila Neugebauer Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Brian Tyree Henry, Linda Emond, Jayne Houdyshell, Stephen McKinley Henderson
eeling trapped in her dead-end Louisiana hometown, Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence) joins the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and becomes a water systems expert. When she suffers a brain injury during an ambush in Afghanistan, she is discharged and sent back to New Orleans; first to a caretaker (Jayne Houdyshell) during her physical therapy treatments, and then to her mother’s (Linda Emond) house, where she attempts to fully regain her faculties. But returning to her stifling childhood home, despite her estranged mother’s efforts to reconnect with her daughter, still threatens to quell a quick recovery. When Lynsey meets friendly auto-repair shop owner James (Brian Tyree Henry), the two injured souls form a friendship that may just heal them both.
One of the most fascinating components of “Causeway” is what is not shown. Avoiding the standard inclusions of flashbacks, or reveals of graphic injuries, or night terrors, the film opts to remain masterfully subtle, even waiting a few extra beats before unveiling the extent of Lynsey’s physical impairments during the very first scene. Instead of focusing on sensational details, it’s all about the characters, in their raw, distraught states; in its wise dismissal of action (something that is certain to deter a considerable amount of modern audiences), it’s all about acting.
Even though it delves into the complications of memory loss, repetitive therapy, sleeplessness, depression, and medication, exhibiting an authenticity towards the horrors of specific military experiences – as well as providing commentary on who decides upon when such a person is ready to be put back into society, troublingly suggesting that the depletion of funds is the great dictator of timing – the film ultimately centers around a striking friendship, as well as the lead role’s relationships that have deteriorated around her. Lawrence is exceptional, providing a performance that is cinematic and emotional, while also being completely convincing. So too does Henry, each sharing vulnerabilities and sensitivities that reflect the utter believability of two disparately damaged people attempting to connect and commiserate. “I want to go where I’m useful.”
It’s a slice-of-life character study of marvelous realism and candor, touching on similar themes seen in “The Hurt Locker” but sans the wartime excitement; here, low-key, minimalist interactions are everything. In many ways, “Causeway” resembles a play, depending on an incredibly small number of sets and actors to portray its simple, intimate conversations, full of brutally ingenuous dialogue and a deeply human condition. Even tangential elements, such as mother/daughter bonding (and the revelation of far more strained areas), or a disappointment of a brother, or the notable absence of romantic entanglements are stirring; the picture’s contemplative, meditative approach is a surprisingly powerful way to demonstrate various traumas and the coping mechanisms employed to deal with them. “Causeway” is eye-opening, then tragic, then heartbreaking, and finally hopeful. And it’s beautifully conducted in a swift, uncluttered, compelling manner, reminding viewers that so much can be conveyed with so little when acting and scripting are at the forefront, designed to feel natural and honest.
– The Massie Twins