After a decade of mostly appearing in action blockbusters and major releases, Jennifer Lawrence returns to the smaller film space with the intimate drama “Causeway.”
The film, directed by Lila Neugebauer, who’s making her feature film debut, follows Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence), a member of the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers. The film picks up with Lynsey recovering after suffering a head injury caused by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
Needing time to recover, she returns to her hometown, New Orleans, and stays with her mother Gloria (Linda Emond), even though the two have a strained relationship. While she’s there, she meets an auto-mechanic, James (Brian Tyree Henry), who is dealing with trauma of their own. Both individuals, who are a bit lost in life, are able to form a friendship from there.
“Causeway” is a rather simple film, keeping its attention nearly exclusively on the two lead characters and doesn’t extend into a lot of other subject matter. For example, while the main character was injured in the War in Afghanistan, the film doesn’t dig much into the conflict, not even showing flashbacks to the incident where she was hurt.
While the film is lighter in story, though, that doesn’t mean it’s missing at all in richness. In fact, the simplified approach actually works in the movie’s favor, providing a close, focused look at two broken people.
The film’s depth comes from the trauma both characters are still getting over and how they’re able to slowly open up to each other. Neugebauer, as well as the writing team of Elizabeth Sanders, Luke Goebel and Ottessa Moshfegh deserve credit for how well the relationship is handled, how nicely the movie is paced and for how raw the picture comes across.
Perhaps helping “Causeway” work best, though, is the acting from the two leads. Lawrence really nails her performance, and it’s great to see her in a more straightforward role again. She’s exceptional in portraying a character who seems like she knows what she wants to do, and is lost at the same time.
As the character navigates her future, Lawrence is really good at capturing the character’s emotions and struggles. She also manages to sell the physical parts of the role, as her character has to deal with physical therapy and troubles with motor functions.
Tyree Henry adds a lot to the film, too. His character is a really kind, genuine person, but has his own struggles underneath. Tyree Henry is exceptional at bringing a warmth and charm to the character while also capturing the pain James has from a personal tragedy.
Clocking in at just around 90 minutes, “Causeway” is a film that one wishes was just a bit longer. It’s not a case where a viewer will leave unsatisfied, as the movie does mange to conclude its story and character journeys. However, there is a feeling that it could have been extended just a bit to add more on to the experiences of these characters.
“Causeway” is a really strong, emotional drama. It feels grounded and honest thanks to the cast and crew alike, which helps an audience feel quite attached to what’s happening on screen. . 4 out of 5.
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