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Causeway

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What it’s about:

After suffering a traumatic brain injury during a tour in Afghanistan, Army engineer Lynsey is sent home to her native New Orleans, where she wrestles with memory loss and daily life with her mother, finds a connection with an amputee named James, and eagerly awaits her redeployment.

Names you might know:

Jennifer Lawrence produced the film and stars as Lynsey, and Brian Tyree Henry, most familiar from Atlanta, plays James.

Why it’s worth your time:

I would be surprised if no one tried to talk Jennifer Lawrence out of making Causeway. After all, her time is extremely valuable, and this film cost nothing, relatively. Yet in it, she’s as good as she’s ever been.

A24

Causeway is the type of film Hollywood used to make or aspire to make more regularly. All the money and computers in the world can’t buy or emulate the humanity on the faces in the film, or the emotional impact of a fallen snow cone therein.

Artists recognize each other. Jennifer Lawrence chose Brian Tyree Henry to accompany her on this exploration. Though art isn’t a competition, the two leads are as good as any actors of their generation. Tyree Henry is always memorable no matter the real estate allotted to him (see Joker and If Beale Street Could Talk).

I went into this film like most others – purposefully knowing as little about it as possible. As the film progressed, the specter of Badlands and its era arose in my mind. I was stunned to learn from the end credits that Jack Fisk of Badlands designed the production. Then, just for a moment, I felt a little clever and stirred.

In addition to the artists mentioned above, none of this happens without a thoughtful director, sensitive writers, and a talented crew. And it begins with the film’s opening shot, as potent a piece of cinema as I have seen this season.

In the end, don’t think of Causeway as counterprogramming to all of the spectacle out there. It is a counterbalance, one that harkens back to when mainstream films were as compelling as they were earthly.

And bravo to Jennifer Lawrence for investing her clout, taste, and talents into this film. I always wondered why more big stars who were also artists didn’t make projects like this one, at least once.

The takeaway:

Causeway succeeds as a humanistic breath of fresh air, a work of art, and a revolutionary reminder of what cinema can and should be.

Watch it with:

It’s a story of how a soldier confronts PTSD and finds camaraderie on their path to discovery. Watch this one with someone facing (or suppressing) their own traumas.

Worth noting:

From the Watercooler: The film avoids depicting or flashing back to the events that led to Lynsey’s trauma, so there are no jolts or triggers.  The pacing is such that many viewers might lose patience, but the slow burn feels like a deliberate choice, as we experience the world of the characters.

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