“If it gets dark now, you just ride it.”
I’ve always believed that there’s a story in each of us that needs to be told. We are all somewhat interesting in our own different ways—some more than others. So when I have the chance to see a movie that feels like a story about something real, about a real-life person, I eat that up. Jennifer Lawrence, in this regard, heads back to what I can only say are her roots of acting. The place that propelled her to the star she is now. And if you can remember that long ago, she was nominated for that very role in Winter’s Bone (2010). While Causeway doesn’t hit the same, it is best to say that it’s refreshing for us to see Lawrence going back to basics.
Lawrence plays Linsey, an Army veteran having just returned from deployment in Afghanistan. She’s picked up by a woman named Sharon, but at closer look, we see that Linsey is in a wheelchair and has to be wheeled to Sharon’s van. Upon arriving to Sharon’s home, we find that Sharon is a caretaker, helping veterans acclimate to life after serious injuries—some of which can’t fully function with their daily activities on their own—not to mention the debilitating addition of PTSD. This is only the start for Linsey. Then begins her transition into “normal” life.
Linsey heads home to New Orleans where her past comes flooding back to her. She’s greeted by a mother that forgot to pick her up at the bus station, and haunted by the house that her and her brother grew up in. She soon gets a job cleaning pools, because she loves the water. (The overt water symbolism is heavy in this film.) However, the depression is too much for her to bear. Her immediate reaction is that she has to get better, so she can get out of this place that continues to suffocate her. Even if getting out means redeployment and worsening her injury, or even death.
In her expedited efforts to get the hell out of her hometown, she meets James (Brian Tyree Henry), a mechanic who she takes her truck in for repairs. The two of them become fast friends as Linsey feels she can finally depend on someone. As the two spend more time together, they find tranquility in their friendship. The barriers begin to crumble as they reveal the horrific traumas of their past—moments that have changed the trajectory of their lives forever.
Directed by Lila Neugebauer, Causeway is not your usual feel-good fluff or romance. If anything, this story is simply about people and the silent pain that eats away at their heart. Lawrence and Henry have a unimaginable chemistry together. They play off one another so well with their witty banter, but are able to discuss the root of their problems—the sadness overtaking them. However, as good as they were, I couldn’t help wanting the story to be better.
The slow, snail’s, pace at which the film moves is not so much problematic, but a burden. It pained me to feel stuck in this limbo of wanting more interactions with the characters—especially those pivotal to Linsey’s upbringing. While Lawrence and Henry steal the show, the rest of the supporting cast suffered. The characters could have been utilized more to better round out Linsey’s past, and therefore, help shape her ultimate decision on her future.
Causeway isn’t a bad movie, but it isn’t great. It’s just mediocre. In a genre involving real people who deal with their trauma and depression, there are so many ways you can take this narrative to make it truly heart-stopping. But to be honest, it’s average. There are rumblings of Lawrence heading into the Oscar race with this under her belt, and I won’t be surprised, but I think it’s going to be a tight race even without her. Lawrence is only dipping her toes back into the realm of this type of drama. I hope we get to see her exhibit these acting qualities more in the future.
Directed by: Lila Neugebauer
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Brian Tyree Henry, Linda Emond, and Jayne Houdyshell