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LFF 2022 Review: Causeway is Quietly Devastating

Courtesy of TIFF

How does it feel to overcome major trauma? It’s not a catchy theme, it doesn’t sound pleasant and it’s difficult to portray on the big screen. But when done well, this triumph generates a palpable emotional response. But it’s not the fist-pumping kind, it’s a feeling more akin to awe at the human spirit. Causeway does it really well.

Director Lila Neugebauer explores what it takes to overcome physical and mental torment. What makes Causeway remarkable is the care which Neugebauer takes with her story. Causeway is a film with three distinct acts. Performing with economy and understatement, Jennifer Lawrence plays veteran soldier, Linsey. A serious brain injury has left her an empty shell. The first step to recovery is months of difficult physical rehab. Understandably frustrated, Linsey forms a tentative alliance with carer Sharon (played so well by Jayne Houdyshell). Yet this isn’t the end of her difficulties.

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Linsey returns to a home full of painful memories, and a distant mother, Gloria (Linda Emond). Her adjustment to civilian life eases after making a new friend, James (Brian Tyree Henry). But James has his own demons to wrestle with. Linsey realises that she must re-learn how to be a soldier, a friend and a daughter Neugebauer, with a script from three screenwriters (including author Otessa Mosfegh) has put together a cool drama. Linsey is such an interior character that she could alienate viewers, but the film works hard to let us in. A clever combination of Lawrence’s spare acting (recalling her role in Winter’s Bone) and Neugebauer’s use of close-ups of Lawrence’s expressive face keep things interesting. Tyree Henry and Lawrence are not a natural pairing on paper, yet they create a nice, layered friendship on screen.

This film is exceptionally well cast across the board, and for once, each actor is given the space to create their own story. Or maybe Lawrence just brings out the best of her screen partners.  Thankfully, Causeway is not all trauma porn. Its moments of levity, particularly in its observation of suburban LA life, help to space out the heavier themes. But ultimately, Causeway is heartbreaking. It succeeds not as a quick emotional gut punch but as a quietly devastating portrait of PTSD that gradually envelopes the viewer. In short, Causeway is must-see moviemaking.

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One Comment

  1. It’s a shame that Samira Wiley’s role was excised from the film.

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