I know personally what it means to suffer a traumatic brain injury. While mine did not involve an IED or military action, brain trauma to the brain affects literally everything and makes recovery a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Jennifer Lawrence stars in Causeway, a moving film about the aftermath of brain injuries and the struggles of one veteran to cope with being home again. Directed by Lila Neugebauer, Causeway, a character-driven tale puts two unlikely people together as they heal from invisible wounds.
Lawrence plays Lynsey an Iraqi veteran who wishes only to return to duty. After weeks of recovery, moving from the hospital to a halfway house of sorts, then home, she takes a mindless job cleaning pools and works hard to convince her doctor she’s good to go. Along the way, she meets James (Brian Tyree Henry) an auto mechanic who suffers from a completely different type of trauma. Lawrence clearly understands Lynsey and the efforts it takes to find some sense of normalcy in her upsidedown world. Lynsey’s home life before her deployment was hardly stellar and her relationship with her mother (Linda Emond) reveals deep-rooted personal issues at the root of her desire to return to Iraq.
Causeway explores the lives and healing of two tortured souls. The subject matter is disturbing and, at times, difficult to watch. Lawrence delivers a stunning performance – communicating so much while doing almost nothing. While Lawrence offers a particularly powerful performance, one could argue that Henry pulls more on the heart, and he plays his character’s story more intensely – demonstrating his internal struggle vividly in his eyes and on his face. Both stars rise to the need to emote the deep-seated pain not projected through dialogue alone. The screenplay written by Ottessa Moshfegh, Luke Goebel, and Elizabeth Sanders has subtle and necessary nuances to it, but it is the film’s leads that carry us successfully through their emotional journey. Director Lila Neugebauer also understands that her characters need to hide from the world, and they live in prison-like cells because the outside world brings fear and uncertainty.
Perhaps little is overtly fresh about Causeway’s storyline, but this crew and cast deliver a portrait of what it means to suffer loss. The film is not a flashy, action-packed wild ride, but rather a character study that highlight Henry and Lawrence’s talents. The subtly of the whole affair warrants reflection. I am placing 4 stars at the top for this one.