Capsule Review: Causeway (2022) Review

After spending the last decade acting in a slew of movie franchises (X-Men, The Hunger Games) and high-profile films (notably her collaboration with David O. Russell), it’s nice to see Jennifer Lawrence returns to her roots. A return to the independent cinema, to be exact, where she first made her breakthrough in Winter’s Bone back in 2010.

Her new film, Causeway is a testament that showcases why Jennifer Lawrence is one of the best actresses of her generation. She plays Lynsey, a U.S. soldier who returns home from Afghanistan after suffering a brain injury caused by an explosion. We first see her slowly recuperating from her temporary disability with the help of her nurse and carer, Sharon (Jayne Houdyshell). She learns how to overcome some of the daily struggles that include walking, bathing, putting on her own clothes and driving. It was a delicate prologue that takes its time depicting Lynsey’s physical condition and her road to recovery, complete with Lila Neugebauer’s perfectly muted approach in her direction capturing the mundane process minus all the typical Hollywood gloss and above all, clichés.

After Lynsey finally recovers — at least, physically speaking — she moves back to her New Orleans home, where her mother (Linda Emond) lives. She is also eager to get back to work and manages to secure a job cleaning pools. Then one day, her family’s truck breaks down halfway and ends up at a local garage to get it fixed. From there, she meets a kind-hearted mechanic named James (Brian Tyree Henry) and the two of them eventually become friends. We see them hanging out together eating burgers and drinking beers (except for Lynsey who sticks to root beers), enjoying sno-balls and at one point, taking a dip in her client’s private pool late at night.

Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry in Apple TV+'s "Causeway" (2022)

Lawrence’s vanity-free and quietly affecting role as Lynsey is undoubtedly one of her best performances to date and she pairs well with Brian Tyree Henry. The latter is equally praiseworthy for his understated performance as James. Both of them are wounded souls with respective gloomy pasts of their own seeking solace in each other while keeping their relationship platonic. And here, Neugebauer — making her feature-length directing debut (she’s a theatre veteran and also helmed some TV episodes like Maid and The Sex Lives of College Girls) — maintains a slow-burn approach in developing their relationship as deliberately and grounded as possible. Come Oscar time, I’m not surprised if Lawrence and Tyree Henry or either of them lands an acting nomination. The rest of the cast, especially Stephen McKinley Henderson who plays Lynsey’s neuropsychologist, Dr Lucas and Linda Emond as her mother Gloria, all deliver solid supporting turns.

But as much as I appreciated Lawrence and Tyree Henry’s respective acting performances and some of Neugebauer’s direction works well in her favour, it’s hard to deny that Causeway is too restrained for its own good. The movie also tends to look like a staged production with predominantly static visuals that cinematographer Diego Garcia and production designer Jack Fisk seem to get their hands tied by budget constraints.

Causeway is currently streaming on Apple TV+.