Directed by Lila Neugebauer | Written by Luke Goebel, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Elizabeth Sanders | 92 min | ▲▲▲▲△ | Apple TV+
A version of this review appeared on FITI in September when it screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.
This lean, almost austere New Orleans-set drama from a first-time director sees the return of Jennifer Lawrence — who’s taken a little time away from her acting career recently — giving an entirely embodied performance. She’s all angular limbs and slouched shoulders as Lynsey, an Afghan war vet back home and recovering from the physical and emotional trauma sustained in battle.
In New Orleans she’s having to face the very things she left behind when she entered the military — a relationship with a mother (Linda Emond) she doesn’t really connect with, and other family members who’ve gotten lost in their own ways.
Lynsey finds a job that she can do, cleaning swimming pools in the richer parts of NOLA, and strikes up a friendship with a local mechanic played by Brian Tyree Henry. He’s working on her truck while she’s trying to heal and figuring out how to get back to service. He’s got some unresolved pain in his past that he slowly opens up to her about.
And that’s more or less it, a simple story of recovery and reconnection featuring an unlikely collision of characters. A subtext here is class — neither of these people have a lot of options for wealth or security — and the swimming pools Lynsey cleans end up being both a recreational and a therapeutic resource for both of them. The picture also uses the steamy, almost fragrant presence of New Orleans to terrific effect.
Both Lawrence and Tyree Henry manage to deliver the deep, underlying pain of their situations, exploring the ways and means to forgive themselves for what they’ve been through and find some kind of direction in life, with Lawrence also convincingly struck by foot-in-mouth-disease — she has a charming and cringey tendency to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.
If Causeway is an indicator of where Lawrence would like to take her career going forward, huge props to her for the return to indie work where she can really stretch her voluminous talent — it’s the closest to the grit of Winter’s Bone she’s done since.