2010’s Winter’s Bone — a bleak, uncompromising portrait of poverty and household — felt just like the announcement of a serious display expertise in Jennifer Lawrence. Causeway, her return to impartial filmmaking, is just not fairly as wealthy or suspenseful as that early breakthrough, however it shares the identical powerful, arduous edges, showcasing Lawrence as an actor able to uncommon emotional depth and resonance. Solely her second movie in three years, it’s a reminder of what she will be able to do with even the sparsest materials.
She performs Lynsey, a military veteran on go away after a bomb leaves her with a traumatic mind damage. A carefully pitched prologue exhibits her painful preliminary restoration below the protecting watch of a carer performed by Jayne Houdyshell (a current scene-stealer in The People and Solely Murders In The Constructing, extending her streak right here).
Debut function director Lila Neugebauer, whose background is in theatre, movies all this with a muted, stripped-back naturalism: the practical mundanities of studying to stroll once more, the gruelling work required to regain coordination and reminiscence. The filmmaking right here is spare and nearly aloof. Time-jumps and character development are implied by way of modifying; plot particulars are drip-fed slowly. Lawrence performs it with the calm self-discipline of a navy vet, dressed completely in unglamorous slacks, invisible emotional armour all the time deployed.
The filmmaking is so restrained, and the drama so missing in pressure, that we’re left wanting extra.
After leaving what we assume to be a medical facility, Lynsey heads to her hometown of New Orleans, to remain in a childhood dwelling stuffed with sad reminiscences — an alcoholic mom, an addict brother. It’s right here that she meets Brian Tyree Henry’s kindly automobile mechanic James. Henry is exceptional right here, and simply Lawrence’s match, recalling his devastating efficiency in If Beale Road May Discuss: one other character utilizing wit and charisma to masks ache lurking just under the floor.
Lynsey and James are reduce from totally different material, however are inextricably drawn to one another — like many an understated indie earlier than it (see additionally: Misplaced In Translation, Blue Valentine), that is in the end a narrative about two misplaced souls who discover one another, troubled folks recognising a form of unstated solidarity. The precise definitions of their relationship appear ceaselessly fuzzy — they go on what appear to be dates, sharing burgers and personal pool events — however the parameters are strictly unromantic, till they’re not.
It’s superbly mounted, and the deference to realism means nothing ever appears too contrived or implausible. However the filmmaking is so restrained, and the drama so missing in pressure, that we’re left wanting extra. Who’re these characters, actually? What have they got to them, outdoors of their unresolved trauma? The script, by Elizabeth Sanders, Luke Goebel and Ottessa Moshfegh, has an concept, however the layers have been peeled again a lot that it’s unclear, in the end, what all of it quantities to. It’s left to 2 subtly highly effective performers in Lawrence and Henry to fill within the blanks.