Directed: Lila Neugebauer Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Brian Tyree Henry Rated: R Runtime: 1h 32m Studio: A24/Apple TV Screenwriters: Ottesa Moshfegh, Luke Goebel, Elizabeth Sanders
Causeway follows Lynsey (Lawrence), a woman from a crappy family who gets out of her Louisiana town the same way many in her situation do; she joins the military. When an explosion overseas leaves her with a traumatic brain injury (TBI), she’s sent home. She believes, as many service members often do that she’ll recover enough to return to duty. But to recover, she’s sent to the one place she doesn’t want to be; home.
The filmmaker starts with the mundane—the part where Lynsey must learn how to be a person again. Cinematically the tone of the film conveys “the everyday person” and the settings that go with it. It’s subdued but thoughtful. The characters are silently driven by deep emotions, which reverberate in everything they do.
Nothing exciting happens in this film. It’s the exhale between heartbeats, where the precipitating events already occurred, and what’s left is the aftermath. Being in the shoes of the broken is what Causeway wants from its audience. Usually, stories about returning war vets are male leads/perspectives and how it affects them and their families. It’s refreshing to see a female lead because women also serve and are affected by war trauma.
The script is well written. It considers the nuances of dealing with a TBI, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, guilt, and depression. The life-numbing psychological toll it plays on a person, with none of the loud, stereotypical bullshit. Lynsey is in her own private hell, so when she encounters James (Henry), who is living with his own pain and guilt from a life-altering event, the two become friends. Lynsey’s personality makes this new relationship difficult, but James mostly understands.
Causeway’s script is a masterclass depicting people in their most vulnerable state. Showing the raw emotional parts of ourselves that we all have, but without the fluff, heavy exposition, and unnecessary buildup. The tone and flow of this film are spot on. Those involved did their homework on these topics or knew someone well enough to reflect accurately on them.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to review this film because, at first, I wasn’t sure how to articulate the nothingness I felt when it was over. Causeway didn’t make me consider the perspective of people with TBIs, PTSD, or guilt. And I appreciate serious films that make the audience think about the subject matter they’re watching. I felt nothing about how the movie ended. I’m not heartless, but I know people who have gotten TBIs. I have PTSD and a few members of the alphabet soup club, so I get it. I don’t have to put myself in the character’s shoes; in a way, I already have a pair. In this movie, the audience doesn’t see who Lynsey was before, only how she is now. The adulterated version of her is what there is now, despite whatever progress she makes for herself.
Causeway is a looking glass into a subject, a reality for many that aren’t talked about enough and not understood enough by the average person. It depicts valuable insight into a reality many deal with and suffer through and is worth discussing. You may only ever watch it once, but Causeway deserves a place on your watchlist.
-A Pen Lady