November 4, 2022

“Causeway” Paints an Intimate Picture of Trauma and Friendship (Review)

It’s been a long time since Jennifer Lawrence played a real human being. In the past seven years, she’s played a shapeshifting superhero, a Russian spy, a hyperbolic but hysteric truth-teller, and a religious allegory, but there’s been a distinct lack of grounded drama in her filmography ever since 2015’s Joy. This isn’t a bad thing (I tend to prefer genre films myself), but it’s been a noticeable mark on the career of a fantastic actress who had her big break with one such drama.

Image courtesy of Apple TV+

Now she’s back to the world of solemn stories that could very well be true with
Causeway, a co-production of the ever-reliable Apple TV+ and A24 that begins slowly and subtly. We begin to understand that Lawrence plays Lynsey, a US soldier who suffered a brain injury while on the ground in Afghanistan, forced to return home and struggling to settle back into a mundane routine of daily life.

Based on that premise, I was expecting a very different film from what Causeway ended up becoming. It’s an exploration of trauma, but it’s not so much about the events which caused her injury so much as it is about how she deals with the fallout. There’s no wartime flashbacks and not much dwelling on the past — this is a story about looking towards the future, and asking yourself what exactly that looks like after a life-changing circumstance.

Brian Tyree Henry co-stars as James Aucoin, a pool cleaner that Lynsey befriends upon her return to normalcy. Henry, who I firmly believe is one of the best actors working today, turns in an incredible performance alongside Lawrence, and his character is a perfect representation of the fact that not all trauma is the same, and everyone deals with it in different ways. Everyone’s got baggage, and it’s not necessarily comparable; everyone should be able to deal with it in their own way.

Image courtesy of Apple TV+

One of the more interesting things about Causeway is that it’s directed by Lila Neugebauer, primarily a director of theatre, known for reviving Kenneth Lonergan’The Waverly Gallery on Broadway in 2018. Neugebauer’s background contextualizes the presentation of Causeway, and many of the directorial choices make sense when looked at from a theatrical lens. There are no big, bombastic action sequences or hyper-paced montages. Every scene plays out like a vignette, as if performed on-stage back-to-back, threading together to create the overall story. This isn’t to say it would have been better as a play, though; Causeway works best as a film, and Neugebauer knows that, taking full advantage of the medium to convey the messages.

Causeway is tactfully slow but quietly intense, making us ask questions about how we’re affected by the events of our past that we might want to forget. Everyone is different and deals with trauma in different ways, but Causeway’s thesis is that connection is the key, despite how hard it may be to make that first step and stay on an upward trajectory. It’s rare that a movie comes along this sensitive and intelligent about its themes, and even rarer that said movie would star two dynamic performers giving the quietest (but perhaps among the best) performances of their careers.

Causeway is streaming on Apple TV+.

1 comment:

  1. Wardrobe is spot on for J Law. Don't wanna spoil anything but they get it perfect. Can't believe you didn't say anything about it at all even after I specifically told you to.