REVIEW – “Causeway”

Jennifer Lawrence is one of those Hollywood stars that has been in just about every type of film imaginable. She’s been nominated for four Academy Awards and even won for Silver Linings Playbook back in 2013, and has seen the highest of highs in both the X-Men franchise as well as the wildly successful Hunger Games series. However, there’s something about her performance in Causeway that feels wildly different than anything she’s done before. The film follows Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence) who is a U.S. soldier returning home from a tour in Afghanistan after suffering from a traumatic brain injury. As she tries to convince those around her, from her mother to her doctor, that she’s ready to go back into war – she comes across James (Brian Tyree Henry) who she forms an unlikely yet beautiful, truthful and authentic friendship with.

What makes Jennifer Lawrence’s performance here stand-out so much is something that I think directors like David O. Russell never really tapped into with her – subtlety. She does such a wonderful job at conveying emotions just by her mannerisms, facial expressions, and the way she dissolves into this character so deeply. There are so many movie stars that have a hard time blending into roles due to their stardom, but this is one of the most seamless and quietly powerful performances I’ve seen this year. All of this is only more-so complimented by Brian Tyree Henry’s equally great performance as her friend James, who is as equally mysterious and he is lovable. Their chemistry together is absolutely fantastic, and they share a handful of sequences together that are just really emotionally heart-wrenching.

So much of why this film works is due in credit to director Lila Neugebauer, who did work on another equally compelling and dramatic show called Maid for Netflix. Considering this is her first directorial effort, I’m even more impressed with how naturalistic of a director she is and how perfectly she can create a mood and atmosphere around her characters. There is so much restraint here, and it’s all the more powerful for it – because when the film actually does swing for the fences emotionally, it feels all the more effective because you spend so much time watching these character interact and operate like real, authentic people.

I don’t know if the Academy will recognize Causeway, as it’s a very quiet and subtle film; there’s truly nothing flashy on display here. However, I think that’s what makes it so damn’ good – it’s a film that was entirely not on my radar at all, and I fell in love with it. There are some pacing issues here and there – but if you’re patient with it, you’ll be rewarded with some career-best performances from everyone involved.


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