“Causeway” delivers strong performances

Causeway (Jennifer Lawrence, Brian Tyree Henry, Linda Emond) – Lynsey, just out of extended rehab from a war injury caused by an IED, is trying to adjust to life back in New Orleans. She has brain damage and is living in pain and denial. Her personality has changed. When her truck breaks down, she heads to the body shop where she is befriended by James, himself an amputee. Their unlikely friendship — this mentally challenged white lesbian and this physically imposing but haunted, handicapped black man – serves as the heart of this art film.

Jennifer Lawrence, perhaps the best actress of her generation, returns to the genre of film that thrust her into the national spotlight with an Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone. Still only 32 years old, she may be best known for her Hunger Games films or her Oscar-nominated performances in American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook (she won), and Joy. In Causeway, she plays this role in an understated, determined, and damaged way. Without makeup, she portrays Lynsey as raw, sloppy, and lost. But it’s not JLaw that garnered an Oscar nomination.

It’s Brian Tyree Henry as James who received the somewhat surprising Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Henry is no newcomer. He is a fine character actor who has received Emmy nominations for his roles in Atlanta and a guest appearance in This is Us, both in 2016.

Causeway is named for the location of the accident that took James’ leg and the life of James’ brother. But it’s also about the bridge these two lost souls cross to return to a meaningful life. There is a chemistry between these characters that sparkles in primarily a co-dependent way.

The film is the feature debut for TV director Lila Neugebauer. The three writers are essentially newcomers. As exceptional as the performances are, the film itself has largely been ignored in this awards season. It’s a “little” film, a low-budget, direct-to-streaming (Apple+) movie that may not have found an audience if it weren’t for Henry’s Oscar nomination. It is well worth a watch.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *