Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry have chemistry in more ways than you think.
After half the critics were disliked for their mixed-to-negative reviews of “Don’t Look Up,” we have proof that we’re not the monsters people accuse us of being. The co-star of that film Jennifer Lawrence gives one of her best performances in “Causeway,” a PTSD drama that’s breezy in parts, and captivating and soothing in most scenes.
In her feature debut Lila Neugebauer shows us the relationship between two characters whose worlds are rocked by two separate dramas. It’s more platonic than romantic, but it’s mostly questions their directions and choices in life. It never rushes into things, despite its 90 minute time window, and it never acts predictable. It acts truthful.
Lawrence, who also produced this, plays Linsey, a soldier suffering from a traumatic brain injury after fighting in Afghanistan, and struggling to adjust to life back home in New Orleans. In the meantime, she gets a job cleaning pools, considering that in the Army Corps of Engineers, she specializes in water systems was deployed to work on a dam. She’s just doing this until she’s ready to go back to war.
Brian Tyree Henry comes in as a mechanic named James, who becomes her new friend. He never served in the army, but he did lose his leg in a car accident, which is why he wears a prosthetic leg.
Her mother (Linda Emond) is surprised she wants to go back to fighting, and even Brian is shocked about that. Her doctor (Stephen McKinley Henderson) wouldn’t even advise that. But she wants to get out of her family home and out of New Orleans, and she needs the doctor to sign the waiver.
I can’t spoil much for you in terms of Linsey and James’ circumstances, but they do have a scene that represents their anger of being broken characters. Lawrence and Henry give performances so memorable and complex, that it’s impossible to not see through their emotions. They don’t resort to anger in loud and predictable ways; they resort to words, which allows them to express their problems. And their dramas are unimaginable, at least for those of use who never served or lost a part of ourselves. My condolences for those who did.
The breezy parts regard Linsey’s self-involved mother, who suggest she works in an air-conditioned office then cleaning pools on hot days. But we’re also interested in where her junkie brother (Russell Harvard) ended up, based on how she talks about him with James, as if he was dead. And when they do reunite, it’s poignant.
The movie also begins patiently and profoundly with Linsey crashing with the helpful Sharon (Jayne Houdyshell), who helps her get back on her feet. It isn’t much, but it does present itself with sincerity and realism in terms of the tone and emotions. And the story takes baby steps in show the main heroine being persistent enough to become stable enough to get back out there, but maybe her new found friendship could change her perspectives.
“Causeway” is a drama about how these two damaged people try to go about their lives, and they’re written with complexity by Ottessa Moshfegh, Luke Goebel, and Elizabeth Sanders. And the reasons why Lawrence and Henry are the right actors to portray them, is because they both have a sense of naturalism that distracts them from their more popular franchises. They’re in this project for sincerity, and to express themselves as human beings.
See? We critics aren’t so bad, are we?
In Select Theaters and Streaming on AppleTV+