Apple TV+ film review: Causeway
Ivan | On 04, Nov 2022
Director: Lila Neugebauer
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Brian Tyree Henry, Linda Emond, Jayne Houdyshell, Stephen McKinley Henderson
Four years after Jennifer Lawrence took a leading film role in Red Sparrow, she makes a return to the screen in Causeway, a tale about going back to one’s roots and moving forwards. It’s only fitting, then, that it should also see the star return somewhat to her indie beginnings, delivering a low-key turn in a drama that’s all the more moving because of how understated it is.
Lawrence plays Lindsay, a soldier and engineer in the US military who has returned from Afghanistan after suffering a brain injury in an explosion. Struggling to regain her memories, she also has to retrain herself how to walk, not to mention deal with anxiety and disorienting PTSD. When she goes back to live with her mum, Gloria (Linda Emond), in New Orleans, she’s confronted by other difficulties from her past too.
It’s this psychological and emotional processing that really drives the story, something that’s perhaps indicated by the brief montage at the beginning, which sees Lindsay make a rapid improvement physically with the help of kind caretaker Sharon (Jayne Houdyshell). If that initially feels a little too contrived and easy, Ottessa Moshfegh, Luke Goebel and Elizabeth Sanders’s script succeeds by delving into unexpected complexity for the rest of its runtime, as Lindsay falls into a friendship with James (Brian Tyree Henry), a friendly local mechanic.
Brian Tyree Henry is superb as the helpful, warm figure, providing kind support and gentle acceptance with an easygoing sense of humour. He’s a wonderful counterpart to Jennifer Lawrence’s still presence, who captures the small steps of Lindsay’s journey with a fragmented, uncertain awkwardness. It’s fun just to watch them hang out, and director Lila Neugebauer highlights their natural chemistry by intercutting their scenes with the tense dynamic of Lindsay and her self-centred mum and more formal exchanges with Lindsay’s doctor (the always brilliant Stephen McKinley Henderson).
The latter gradually make it clear that military service provided a way for Lindsay to escape – and her coming to terms with that is key to her making peace with her present and her future. The more time she spends with James, the more we realise that he has his own trauma to face, and what starts as a familiar, almost cheesy story of a US soldier readjusting to civilian life grows into a surprisingly messy and honest exploration of what’s happened to these two broken humans, and the way in which people can find comfort and consolation with each other, even as they instinctively build walls around themselves. It’s a simple but thoughtful study of connection and confrontation, of companionship and healing.
Thos review was originally published during the 2022 London Film Festival.