After a seven-year hiatus from dramas–you know, the type of films that tend to garner award attention–Oscar darling Jennifer Lawrence is back in something that sort of somewhat resembles award fare. Causeway, which has the Oscar winner and three-time nominee playing a veteran recovering from an IED-induced brain injury, is a moderately engaging if slight picture that is more forgettable than fascinating.
Running at a lean 90 minutes, Causeway is a tightly told but hardly raw examination of a woman struggling to find herself. Lawrence spends much of the movie looking slightly drugged; the material simply isn’t very challenging. You can see glimmers of why the actress was drawn to the role, but director Lila Neugebauer, in her feature-length debut, never lets Lawrence run wild. Never lets her unleash. Claw away the flesh.
It all just feels… routine.
Where Causeway has room to breathe is in the relationship between Lawrence’s Lynsey and James, played superbly by Brian Tyree Henry. The two have terrific chemistry and the way their dynamic evolves throughout the course of the movie helps the story maintain momentum.
What’s frustrating is that as central as their relationship is to the movie’s success, Neugebauer and the three credited writers do not zero in their ongoing interchanges as the crux of their story. They seem more interested in depicting Lynsey’s path to recovery than positioning the movie about two troubled individuals coming together; one could even argue that Causeway would have had more sparks if James were the primary protagonist.
In the end, there isn’t enough substance here for Causeway to be anything more than a middling excursion. It’s a harmless watch, even enjoyable, but those expecting a pedigree experience (and Lawrence’s presence tends to have that effect) should downgrade their hopes accordingly.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.