All Lynsey cares about is getting back to Afghanistan. Being blown up by an IED and suffering a traumatic brain injury as a result wasn’t enough to shake her loose of the military’s grip. To her, it’s the best place for her–far away from the childhood home in New Orleans. Due to a series of unfortunate events, she finds her way back home and tries to heal away from the explosives.
Here’s the thing. Human beings can create their own explosive devices in their life. Played authentically by Jennifer Lawrence, Lynsey doesn’t really want to elaborate on what happened to her; all she sees is a future where she is operating in a place that isn’t foreign to her. Normal everyday life is just that when she takes her truck into an auto body shop and meets James (Brian Tyree Henry). A friendship sparks, pasts are explored, and a couple damaged birds try to figure out if they can help each other and their collective futures.
What I loved about Lila Neugebauer’s film is how the story was in no rush to fill in all the blanks, but the audience is never bored and the run time only stretches 82 minutes. Alex Somers’ score paints a thoughtful melancholy on the story, and the direction allows the deft screenplay to unfold at its own pace. It also allows the two principal performers to authentically access their character’s emotional bandwidth.
From the moment we meet Henry’s James, we can sense he has a few things figured out but has a small bleed taking place in his heart. As he uncoils Lynsey’s tragedy, the audience starts to get a sense that he has a few things in his closet that have a few blankets thrown on top of them. The openness of the screenplay and bravery of the actors makes this film hit especially hard. The writing and direction, along with the aesthetic of the film, hinge on a couple people letting us inside.
Lawrence is superb. I couldn’t recall her character’s name when I started writing this review, but that wasn’t a big deal because her performance was all I could think about. It’s a testament to a strong actor when the name isn’t required, and you just see a different person they are inhabiting. This role doesn’t require Lawrence to give a big monologue or have a singular cinematic moment, but she still carries big portions of the film on her shoulders without overacting.
She forms a strong bond with Henry on screen, forming a relationship that doesn’t go down familiar avenues or becomes something we can guess on during the first 30 minutes. Trauma is messy and that attaches itself to anyone you meet after it happens, a factor in the case of these two lost souls. But if the movies have proven anything since the French made short films seem longer way back in the day, it’s like these slow-moving yet quietly riveting dramas are always watchable.
Viewers will easily spot a few aspects of their own lives in Lynsey and James, and that’s due to the relatable vein that pumps blood through the movie. Having a volleyer that Henry allows the movie to grow a second wing in a way. The fellow 1982 baby (we were born exactly eight weeks apart) carves out a spot for himself in every movie he’s in, but “Causeway” provides him with a bigger piece of the pie. If there’s a signature part about him, it’s the thousand mile stare from those soulful eyeballs. One look at him and you see a life lived AND experienced. That’s talent.
Outside of the esteemed supporting work from Jayne Haudyshell (playing a nurse assisting Lynsey early on) and Stephen McKinley (playing the doc standing between her and another trek through a war zone), this is basically a two person play. And it works due to the caliber of actors in those two roles. Lawrence and Henry navigate through an uncompromising and heavily somber tale with ease, pulling us closer to their chaos with each scene.
“Causeway” is streaming on Apple TV Plus, and it’s worth a $5-6 monthly subscription due to the movies they’re picking up from A24 alone. This is the new way of movie-watching, and it lends itself to the experience of Neugebauer’s film. It’s a methodical drama, bound by very few conventions with some of the more natural acting you’ll find. Give it a look for an actor’s showcase, and Somers’ indelible score.