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Causeway

****
2022

‘…both stars shine in this delicate drama about connection; it’s something of a relief to find that Causeway offers such rare sensitivity to the genuine problems of real life…’

‘What a miserable life’ exclaims Afghanistan-conflict vet Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence) in this thoughtful debut feature from director Lila Neugebauer. While almost catatonic due to a debilitating brain injury, Lynsey blurts this nugget out in an involuntary manner while under the care of Sharon (Jayne Howdyshell), a live-in care-taker who helps rehabilitate individuals back to society. Sharon conceals her reaction to Lynsey’s hurtful words, but Causeway aims to get behind the veneer of everyday life and understand the hidden darkness within.

‘The link between trauma and depression is stronger than the link between smoking and cancer’ helpfully offers Lynsey’s doctor (the great Stephen McKinley Henderson), and Causeway doesn’t attempt to depict the trauma itself, just the aftermath and subsequent depression. There’s zero flashbacks to combat to break up the action, just a solitary, crafted monologue in which Lynsey tells her neurologist about her history; Causeway is very much a film about transition from one state to another, and not just for Lynsey. She strikes up a friendship, tentative throughout, with James Aucoin (Brian Tyree Henry), a mechanic who runs an auto-repair shop and helps out when she’s struggling for transportation; Lynsey won’t go to work in an office, but wants to go back to the army and ‘redeploy’, so she’s taken a menial pool-cleaning job despite the opposition of her mother Gloria (Linda Edmond) to the last two notions. Lynsey and James strike up an odd alliance, but both of them are concealing issues that come to the fore as they get to know each other…

‘Are you with me?’ asks Lynsey’s care-taker, and that question of supportive connection hangs over the subtle, uncontrived interactions featured in Causeway; this adds up to more that ‘the same broken people wallowing in it’ as one character observes. Lynsey is trying to get off medication, ‘the don’t-shoot-yourself-in-the-head kinda medication’ she explains, while Brian only has one leg as a result of a car accident; they have genuine wounds to heal that can’t be shrugged off with a casual conversation like ‘What happened? I lost my leg…’

Lawrence has been one of the best actors going since her auspicious Winter’s Bone debut, but has made a few wrong moves since The Hunger Games shot her to mega-stardom; both sci-fi dud Passengers and her dalliance with the X-Men films went on far too long. Streaming on streamer Apple +, Causeway gives Lawrence a strong, demanding role that she plays with gravitas, tuned in to the difficulties a vet might face in re-evaluating her own worth after sustaining considerable damage. And the real revelation is Brian Tyree Henry, also regrettably cast in recent big-budget fare like Bullet Train and The Eternals, but giving a taste of what he can do when there’s serious material to play with. Both stars shine in this delicate drama about connection; it’s something of a relief to find that Causeway offers such rare sensitivity to the genuine problems of real life.

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  1. Days of Future Past is the last superhero movie I really enjoyed. I like J-Law, and I thought Passengers was pretty decent. I’d have to be in the right frame of mind to take this one on, maybe after the holidays. I’m feeling pretty jolly right now and this might kill the buzz.

    • It’s not a barrel of laughs, but delicate rather than miserable. Awards fodder, and will still be there once festive excitements have passed. It’s no Christmas Vacation.

  2. Lawrence was in some of the X-men movies? Huh, must have been some of the later ones that I totally skipped.
    * goes off to search *
    Oh, those ones. I liked First Class, but none of the others and Apocalypse was the last X-men movie I watched.

    This sounds like a pretty serious movie about serious issues.

    • Very much. In my opinion, they shouldn’t be without a proper cinema window, but awards bodies were keen to cash in on the streaming rush and sold out the cinemas they were entrusted to protect…Henry better here than he was muttering about Thomas the Tank Engine in Bullet Train…

        • I interviewed her for Winter’s Bone, and still hold a candle for that performance. But bad films can tarnish reputations, so this gets JLaw back on track…

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