Causeway: It's Nice to See That Jennifer Lawrence Can Act Again.
Streaming services jumped into the prestige awards season in 2014 and have only gained momentum since, culminating in last year's Best Picture victory for AppleTV+ with CODA. Apple has achieved a fair amount of success in the television field with shows like Ted Lasso, Severance, and The Morning Show, but have not released as many films in comparison. However, their recent Causeway is a wonderfully intimate film that tackles the struggles of veterans and civilians coping with PTSD, physical limitations and the connections made during recovery.
Top Tier Performances
Jennifer Lawrence is in top form in this movie, giving a wonderful performance as Lynsey: a veteran who returns home to New Orleans after getting hurt in the line of duty and suffering a traumatic brain injury. It's an important story to tell, as recovery services for veterans are highly underfunded in this country. The opening scenes of the film tackle her immediate recovery post- injury, being cared for by Sharon, a caretaker who specializes in veterans with combat injuries. Sharon is played rapturously by esteemed character actor Jayne Houdyshell, who I am always delighted to see in movies.
Once she is cleared to return home, Lynsey leaps headfirst into life; she gets a job cleaning pools, reconnects with her mother and gets ahold of her truck. The truck however, almost immediately breaks down, forcing her to get it fixed and meet James ( Bryan Tyree Henry), a local mechanic who himself is riddled with trauma and pain. They connect, and the remainder of the film focuses on their relationship, that is refreshingly un-romantic. It is in spotlighting this connection where the film shines. Jennifer Lawrence and Bryan Tyree Henry have electric chemistry that makes this story come to life vividly; as we watch these two amazing actors uncover and live in these characters, all the while growing closer.
Not Without Some Grievances
While the exploration of a friendship between two traumatized individuals makes for a fascinating movie, other scenes where the focus falls on Lynsey's interactions with her mother, doctors and coworkers are not as interesting. The scenes between Lynsey and her mother in particular feel a bit generic and don't really tread any new ground on the trope of strained mother-daughter relationships.
My other big complaint with this movie *steps on soapbox* is that, while Bryan Tyree Henry gives a great performance, his role should have been given to a performer with a missing limb, whether natural or by amputation. It is an integral part of this character's story, and there are many performers out there who are not only capable, but would likely bring an added layer of context and understanding to their performance. This is all part of a larger conversation about equal and fair representation within media, but it is seemingly being left out of the conversation around this film this awards season, which is slightly disappointing given the wonderful representation that was on display with CODA last year...and from the same streaming service, no less.
This movie is a nice showcase for some really skilled actors. Jennifer Lawrence reminds us why she is an Oscar winner, and Bryan Tyree Henry turns in a performance well worth an Oscar nomination. There's even some quality time with Jayne Houdyshell, which always bumps a movie up in my eyes. There is importance in this film's representation of what happens to our veterans when they return from active service, but there is also a missed opportunity for some real representation for a performer with an amputation or missing limb. Overall though, this movie tells a nuanced story of trauma and the scars left behind by it, both visible and mental, brought to life by powerhouse performances that are sure to enthrall.