Starring: Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry
Director: Lila Neugebauer
The concept of subtle storytelling is underrated, and Causeway is a great example of that. This story of healing and coming-to-terms thrives on the excellent performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry. Although both are more subdued than their usual fare, their performances are among their very best. The film has some pacing issues, which brings its overall success down a tad, but the strength of the two leads at the top of their game is more than enough for this film to warrant a recommendation from me.
Underneath the film’s soft-spoken surface, there is a lot to appreciate about Causeway. It’s a short, subdued film about the healing process of a veteran, and while ditching any over-the-top melodrama may turn some people away, it made the film more engaging and interesting for me. Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry are both fantastic, complimenting the film’s tone flawlessly. Honestly, most of my issues are nitpicks (the ending is a little abrupt, for example), but I definitely see this as a film I’ll have no problem revisiting.
I’ll be honest, I don’t have a ton to say about Causeway. It’s a perfectly fine movie, but not one that I am rushing to tell people about. In fact, of the 40ish movies I saw at TIFF, it was the most forgettable. It just hasn’t stuck with me, good or bad. While I admit that I’ve never been a huge Jennifer Lawrence fan, she does a solid job here in an unusually restrained performance, but she is overshadowed by Brian Tyree Henry, who continues to prove that he’s more than just Paper Boi from Atlanta. Aside from that, I dunno. It’s just…*shrug emoji*
Causeway is a compassionate film from Lila Neugebauer (in her directorial debut) that looks at the prolonged effects of trauma and the struggles that come with trying to move past them. The film’s plot may be considered a quiet, slow burn, but the performances are compelling enough to keep your interest high. The chemistry between Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry is the glue to this film, and it will certainly pull at your heartstrings. Also, while Lawrence may be the name that catches your attention, it’s Henry that steals the spotlight.
Brian Tyree Henry is a premier actor of this generation. That’s really the gist of what needs to be said about Causeway. This story about two people trying to find friendship through trauma is a good watch, but it’s slightly sluggish due to “nothing happening” unless Henry is on screen bringing more life to a solid Jennifer Lawrence performance. Aside from one powerful prison sequence in the final act, you’re mostly just waiting for Henry to come back on screen between his appearances. Still, with only a 90-minute runtime, the wait isn’t laborious…just a little drab.
Causeway may not ultimately count as essential viewing, but if one can appreciate its innate subtlety, it’s a rewarding experience nonetheless. The film’s script is decidedly more nuanced than most films about PTSD are, specifically where it concerns veterans, and while it’s certainly a present issue, it’s never exploited or exaggerated for effect. Jennifer Lawrence gives her most intimate and personal performance to date, while Brian Tyree Henry continues to be one of the most undervalued performers working in movies today. Every scene the two share are the movie’s strongest by far.
This film was reviewed by Nick, Quentin, and Adriano as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.