’Causeway’ Review – Jennifer Lawrence Carries a Quiet Movie With an Extraordinary Performance
Jennifer Lawrence leads the latest Apple TV Plus film, Causeway, with a heartfelt and touching performance that will likely be forgotten when the Oscar voting begins. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, was screened at the BFI London Film Festival, and is now available to watch on Apple TV Plus.
The focus, from the very first shot of the movie, is on Jennifer Lawrence’s character, who at the beginning of the movie is waiting for something while sitting down, with an officer by her side. As her ride arrives, we realize that she’s in a wheelchair, and quickly learn that she can barely hold a cup or brush her teeth on her own. This is Lynsey, an Army engineer who just returned from Afghanistan after a car explosion caused her a brain injury, from which she’s slowly recovering. She has trouble walking, eating, and even remembering things, but is pulling through by force of will and help from her doctor, played by the always-stellar Stephen McKinley Henderson.
Causeway is an intimate character portrayal of a broken person, both physically and mentally. As she starts to progress, she moves back into her home, a place she so desperately wanted to leave she enlisted in the army. She gets a job cleaning pools, and after she starts to drive sooner than she was supposed to, she is forced to take the truck to Brian Tyree Henry’s shop. The movie now becomes a two-hander, with Lawrence and Henry competing in the eyes of the audience to edge out the other’s extraordinary performance. They quickly become good friends after bonding over their internal wounds.
Causeway is Lila Neugebauer’s first directing credit on a feature film, after directing a few episodes of television, and she delivered a brilliant debut. The film is quiet and intimate, but never boring. We are invested in Lawrence’s progression and desperately want her to move on with her life, particularly as she starts to think about going back to the Army once she gets better, but everything feels earned and we are never beaten over the head with how we should feel.
Causeway does not deal with themes like PTSD that could appear in other movies following soldiers coming back home (see the Russo Bros.’ Cherry). Instead, its script, carefully crafted by Ottessa Moshfegh, Luke Goebel, and Elizabeth Sanders, is focused on conversations between two people that understand each other through the pain they have endured. Lawrence’s character is eager to get back to normal, and even though she’s getting there, she gets really frustrated by small setbacks like unexpectedly dropping a milkshake. It’s one of those rare combinations of a beautiful screenplay and masterful direction that delivered a movie that could have landed really flat, but just works, also thanks to two electric performances. The actress is never over-the-top and instead delivers a very restrained performance, letting us know through facial expressions and small body gestures exactly what is going through her head.
All in all, this is a return to form for the lead actress after sleeping through her movies over the past few years, which more screentime in blue than she ever desired in plenty of X-Men movies, some left turns like mother! and Red Sparrow, and an extremely questionable movie in Passengers, as the actress recently revealed. Brian Tyree Henry may have also given his best performance yet, at least on the big screen.
Causeway is now streaming on Apple TV Plus.
Miguel Fernández is a Spanish student that has movies as his second passion in life. His favorite movie of all time is The Lord of the Rings, but he is also a huge Star Wars fan. However, fantasy movies are not his only cup of tea, as authors like Scorsese, Fincher, Kubrick or Hitchcock have been an obsession for him since he started to understand the language of filmmaking. He is that guy who will watch a black and white movie, just because it is in black and white.