Jennifer Lawrence in Causeway | Courtesy of A24

Causeway Review | Neugebauer’s Strong Debut is Awe-Inspiring in Sincere Script

Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence is one of the performers who I will always run to the theaters to support. She has the uncanny ability to not only immerse herself in a performance, but it comes with certainty that an emotional journey will surely follow. In her latest, Lawrence plays Lynsey, a military engineer who has returned from a stint in Afghanistan after suffering a life-altering injury. The drama, directed by Lila Neugebauer is a quiet character study and slow-burn story about PTSD. Causeway is nothing short of a stunning debut, as it is rich with intricate detail, great performances, and superb chemistry from the leads.

Following her debilitating brain injury after an IED explosion in Afghanistan, Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence) returns home to the United States with two goals in mind: recover quickly and return to the war soon after. She journeys to New Orleans to stay with her mother Gloria (Linda Emond), with whom she has a tense relationship—all the while trying to come to terms with her new livelihood. Lynsey then meets James Aucoin (Brian Tyree Henry) at an auto repair shop after her truck breaks down. They slowly start to build a friendship that is founded on solace and company, resulting in yet another complication for Lynsey in her healing process.

A stunning debut

Henry & Lawrence is Causeway
Brian Tyree Henry and Jennifer Lawrence in Causeway | Courtesy of A24

Lila Neugebauer’s take on post-traumatic stress disorder and how that may impact a person’s ability to move on and flourish in life is incredibly moving and gut wrenching. Her ability to capture PTSD with nuance while refraining from judgement is sincere filmmaking at its finest. In Causeway, Lynsey’s slow journey to recovery is painful emotionally and physically. Relearning to walk and trying to retrain her memory aren’t the only obstacles standing in her way of recovery and returning to Afghanistan. Lynsey’s also burdened by the reckoning with her childhood and the guilt standing in her way of making human connections.

Through Lynsey’s building relationship with James, it’s easy to see that no matter anyone’s circumstance, we all long to connect with others with a basis of understanding and respect. The script navigates this most appropriately through Lawrence and Henry’s interactions, leading to as many heartwarming moments as there are heartbreaking ones. Their friendship is the heart and soul of Neugebauer’s debut feature. It’s emotionally devasting yet uplifting by showcasing the importance of tackling issues head on while guided by the support of loved ones. And ultimately, it’s a testament to the incredible work by Ottessa Moshfegh, Luke Goebel, Elizabeth Sanders.

Lawrence and Henry in Causeway
Jennifer Lawrence & Brian Tyree Henry in Causeway | Courtesy of A24

Causeway is awe-inspiring

For a feature debut, Lila Neugebauer comes out swinging with such an intricate character analysis and passion for storytelling in a way that demands empathy as much as it is uplifting. Through Causeway, one can tell she trusts her cast completely, often visibly constructing scenes that frames human connectivity beautifully no matter where they are on screen. Great writing also enables a wonderful watching experience. Far too often, supporting characters—especially Black ones—take a backseat in the storytelling. However, the script is exceptional in providing a space for Henry’s character, James, to thrive without taking away from Lynsey’s story.  

Full of compelling moments that enable viewers to get inside the mind of someone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Causeway is a fantastic representation of empathy and humanity. The film boasts phenomenal performances from its leads, breathing life into a story centered around trauma, despair, and loss. And yet, through Lawrence and Henry’s chemistry, great writing, and fantastic direction, viewers won’t walk away from Neugebauer’s debut feeling down with despair. Instead, this lovely film filled with poignant introspection and the concept of growing from emotional servitude is full of life. It will lead to an inspiring watching experience that will capture the hearts of many.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A24’s Causeway is available to stream on AppleTV+ on November 4th. See A24’s trailer below:

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