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CAUSEWAY (2022)  l  AppleTV+  |  November 4, 2022

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Brian Tyree Henry, Linda Emond

Director: Lila Neugebauer

A US soldier suffers a traumatic brain injury while fighting in Afghanistan and struggles to adjust to life back home.

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TIFF REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus

Causeway features a powerful performance from the ever talented Jennifer Lawrence that is yet another Oscar worthy turn from one of the most talented actresses in Hollywood today, even if the plot does not dig deep enough into the subject matter to deliver the emotionally resonant film it strives to be. 

 

Returning from war is no easy feat, as many veterans struggle to put behind the horrors of what they experienced as well as dealing with injuries, while also re-entering a life long forgotten that could have potentially led them to sign up to serve. And that is what the focus of Causeway is, which follows Jennifer Lawrence’s Lynsey, a soldier who suffers a traumatic brain injury struggling to reintegrate into civilian life as she heals back home in the United States. The film is a quiet character study around a young woman struggling with PTSD from her experience in Afghanistan while coping with recovering from a serious brain injury, which has her relearning many elements of her day to day life that were second nature. At the same time, she is plunged back into the family life that she intentionally left behind, struggling to recover without being pulled down by the weight of her past. 

 

It comes as no surprise, but Lawrence is absolutely phenomenal in this role. She has brought to life so many strong women in previous films, and she does that once again with Lynsey. There is a fragility to Lynsey that Lawrence effortlessly captures, as she slowly builds up her strength as she recovers from her brain injury. Working with this role, Lawrence finds a true emotional depth to her character as she deconstructs this woman trying to set her life back on track despite the various traumas of her past. While there is an inherent fragility to Lynsey given her health, Lawrence brings a resilience and determination to her that is driven by Lynsey refusing to be drawn down by her past. It’s a complex role, and one with lots of nuanced physical requirements as this is not a film full of grand dialogue, but one focused on internal struggle and relearning how one’s body operates, Lawrence dazzles from start to finish. There is no doubt in my mind that Lawrence will be talked about this awards season, because like so many of her previous performances, this one is awards worthy and could see her slip into the Best Actress race in the fifth spot of the category. 

 

The other main character is Brian Tyree Henry’s James, a local mechanic that Lynsey befriends upon her return home. Much like Lynsey, James is also dealing with trauma from his past that lends to a quiet but deliberate performance from Henry. He brings a warmth to James that allows James and Lynsey to bond, but when it comes to the dramatic moments, Henry matches Lawrence’s energy and they quickly become a powerhouse duo. The chemistry between the two of them feels completely natural, like two good friends catching up rather than two actors portraying characters, which brings an authenticity to their characters’ relationship. The film’s plot is simple, crafting a character study on a soldier recovering from a traumatic injury. Given the focus, the plot moves slowly and deliberately to match the pacing of Lynsey’s recovery.

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The story focuses on Lynsey’s friendship with James as well as the one with her mother, allowing the story to play out in a reflective manner as Lynsey regains her footing in life. The film has a short run time of roughly an hour and a half, however the film does have some minor pacing issues in the middle where it drags. The screenplay does a great job of setting up the relationships and dealing with the fruition of the rising tension in those relationships. But the middle act of the film drags as we see Lynsey establish a routine and place of comfort in the two relationships, but the development seems to halt which causes the pacing to slow. It’s a momentary issue, as when conflict arises in the relationships leading into the final act the film becomes engaging again, but it was enough for my attention to wander. 

 

It’s an interesting narrative to follow, though the screenplay relies solely on the performances, and mostly Lawrence, to bring this story to life and fails to fully canvass the subject matter it is dealing with. Jennifer Lawrence delivers yet another tour de force performance as a veteran recovering from a traumatic brain injury that alone makes Causeway worth a watch, even if the screenplay is relatively simple and stumbles at times.

RATING: 3 out of 5