While Jennifer Lawrence’s career started with the Hunger Games franchise, it is her performance in Silver Linings Playbook that garnered her acclaim in the critics’ circle. In her further career, she worked in roles that gave her a way to express herself more loudly to express her character’s emotions. What she does in the new Apple TV+ release – ‘Causeway (2022)’ as an ex-USA soldier, is unlike her earlier work. She presents a devastating portrait of this person with her understated performance. And with a fantastic acting partner such as Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta), the film soars even higher. Directed by Lila Neugebauer, it is one of the most affecting films in the recent past.

Causeway (2022) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

The screenplay for the silent devastation we witness in Jennifer Lawrence’s character in Causeway is written by Ottessa Moshfegh (known for writing My Year of Rest and Relaxation besides the booker nominated Eileen) along with Luke Goebel, and Elizabeth Sanders. Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence) returns from the army after a traumatic incident. Sharon (Jayne Houdyshell) takes her to a care center and treats her like her own child. She tends to everything that Lynsey needs, who is still recovering from the trauma she went through on the battlefield. While the old lady consoles her with kindness, Lynsey insults her on an impulse and regrets it right away.

During this time, Lynsey struggles even with basic functions such as walking or writing. She even wakes up in the middle of the night at times, suffering from PTSD. Sharon makes her feel safe and comforted while she works on her reflexes, whether physical or verbal. On her way to recovery, one day, Sharon gives her the key to her car and asks her to drive. While Lynsey struggled to hold even her toothbrush before, she drives the car with great ease. As a result, Sharon compliments her driving skill and says that she seems even ready to go back.

Hearing this, Lynsey starts tearing up and Sharon realizes that she might be losing control of the car, so she tells her to stop it. When Sharon tries to comfort her saying that the process of recovery can be hard, Lynsey does not want something as simple as driving a car to be considered a victory. It is clear that she is still struggling with how difficult things are for her in the present. Yet, while she is not ready to go back to work, she decides to return to her mother’s place in her hometown. Before leaving, Sharon shares some practical tips that can help her settle into this new pace of her life.

Lynsey returns home and meets her mother – Gloria (Linda Emond), later at night. By now, she becomes efficient in her daily tasks and decides to get a job for herself as a pool cleaner. While she agrees to be able to drive, on her way back, she loses control of her truck and ends up impulsively turning it, owing to still recovering from her reflexes. She goes to a repair shop and meets James (Brian Tyree Henry), who asks for general details about it. She cannot answer any of them, and when he asks her for her contact number, she says that she does not know it.

He feels she might be afraid to share it, and assures her it is just to reach her once the work is done. However, she genuinely means what she says. Out of compassion for her, he shares his number to get in touch about any further updates. While she starts walking back to her home, he offers her a ride. During their drive, they talk about their individual pasts, and where they grew up and studied. She ends up mentioning his sister- Jess’s name, but he does not feel comfortable speaking about her. On the other hand, while she struggles with mustering enough strength to do her job, she keeps up with its mundane routine to keep earning, and probably to return to a semblance of normal life.

On one of these workdays, James shows up near the pool. She asks whether he swims and learns about his amputated leg. She questions whether he was in the army implying he got the injury on the field. He denies it and asks whether she was. That’s when he learns that she has recently returned from Afghanistan. Later, she goes to her neurologist – Dr. Lucas (Stephen McKinley Henderson), who monitors her medical progress. She then asks what would happen if she stopped taking the medications and he mentions the possible risks.

While he has a diagnosis in medical terms, he makes her speak about her brain injury in her own words. She then shares the details as seen through her eyes on the field. While she was working for the Army Corps of Engineers to build a dam, she saw a nearby vehicle from their troop, explode. Within a few moments, their vehicle also exploded when she saw the person next to her engulfed in fire. That is when she suffered from her brain injury where doctors mentioned internal bleeding. She mentions all these details stoically, without an iota of emotion attached to these events.

Jennifer Lawrence in “Causeway,” premiering November 4, 2022 on Apple TV+.

Back at home, while Gloria wants her to work in a conventional office job, Linsey feels satisfied with her temporary work as a pool cleaner. She mentions her future plans to return to the battlefield, which upsets Gloria, who was oblivious to it. Meanwhile, she and James become good friends, and he helps her to move stuff once in a while. On one of these days, they go have a meal together, where a random man comes up and starts flirting with Lynsey. James repels him saying that she already has a boyfriend. The man makes fun of James for him being not that boyfriend. James takes it without any disrespect.

Later, Lynsey mentions that she does not have a boyfriend because she is interested in women, not men. They walk together and sit on a nearby bench. While she shares her story of witnessing the brutal incident on the field, he opens up about his trauma related to his leg injury. He mentions that while driving his car with Jess and her son – Antoine, they had a car accident, where he lost the nephew and never spoke with his sister again. After smoking weed and drinking, she drives him back to his place and helps him walk up the stairs.

Inside his house, he mentions it being his family home where Jess and Antoine used to live with him. It becomes clear that he misses those old times. But living in the same place can bring out memories filled with traumas. Linsey points out that staying in such a place is not healthy, also noting her mother. She then goes through a moment of self-discovery – coming to that conclusion about herself. He offers her to stay in one of the rooms from his place since she wants to get out of her mother’s. She does not accept this offer at the time.

When Linsey returns home, she has a heart-to-heart conversation with Gloria who empathizes with her mindset of getting away from her home. But instead of it being comforting, it unsettles a part of Linsey. Over the period, she works on her mundane job as a pool cleaner while trying to be okay with living with her mother. While she starts regaining her strength, Gloria keeps letting her down. However, James becomes a non-judgmental source of comfort for her during these times. When they go out to eat sno-balls, she drops her down, owing to her reflexes. He still stays as a supportive figure for her.

Meanwhile, she still wishes to get back to the battlefield. However, Dr. Lucas considers her unfit for return and declines to sign a waiver for her since she is still recovering from her symptoms of PTSD. Later, on one of the nights, she and James meet at the house where she cleans the swimming pool. After drinking, she gets in the pool and invites him inside. He takes off his clothes and gets inside. Once they get over their playful mood, he feels guilty for lying to her – or more precisely – for not sharing the complete details about himself.

The reason why Antoine died during the car accident is that James insisted on letting him sit in the front seat, instead of the child seat in the back. He feels guilty for spoiling the kid by indulging his wishes, which made him pay a big price. He gets emotional at this traumatic memory and soon after, in that tender moment, she kisses him. While she mentions doing it since she felt bad for him, he starts swimming back and getting out of the pool. He does not want their relationship based on pity and gets angry at the thought of it.

Due to this conversation, the wound starts opening up and he starts tearing her apart for making him think that his brother is dead just to seek sympathy. She mentions that her brother is in prison for a drug-related case. She insults him back about his drunkenness leading to the car incident. Both of them get emotionally hurt by each other’s words. He then mentions that he is at least accepting his wrongdoing, while she is only blaming others for her life being in shambles. For a while afterward, they do not meet each other.

Causeway (2022) Movie Ending Explained:

Lynsey’s conversation with James opens up her old wounds and makes her unsettled afterward. But she is keen on her resolve to return to the army and notes the same to Dr. Lucas. He still holds the opinion that she should not go back since there are still traces of her trauma in her daily life. The conversation ends on a note when she mentions that there is more trauma associated with her life than just what happened back in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, when she goes to meet James after their argument, she gets her truck but cannot meet him since he is on leave. Due to her being in the army, he also tells the shop to waive her truck’s repair costs.

Later, she goes to meet her brother – Justin (Russel Harvard) in prison. During this emotionally loaded conversation, she apologizes for not meeting him earlier. He seems more content in being in prison than being outside, where he feels unsafe. The mention of the trauma at her home resurfaces during their interaction, where a sense of dread for their painful past lingers over it. Linsey tries to get back to her life, trying to seek a sense of normalcy. She enters a swimming pool filled with children, with a sense of calm. Perhaps, it is indicative of her return to peaceful times.

She later walks up to James’ place with a pack of beers and asks him if she can still move in with him. He reluctantly agrees and asks if she is not going back to the battlefield as she mentioned before. She mentions letting go of that wish for a while and wanting to stay with someone, to indulge in daily, mundane tasks and more than anything, to have a friend. Perhaps, his house appears as a possibility for her to get away from home and the traumatic memories associated with it, without resorting to an unsafe return to the battlefield.

Causeway (2022) Movie Ending Explained (4)
Lila Neugebauer and Jennifer Lawrence in “Causeway,” premiering November 4, 2022 on Apple TV+.
Jennifer Lawrence in “Causeway,” premiering November 4, 2022 on Apple TV+.
Brian Tyree Henry and Jennifer Lawrence in “Causeway,” premiering November 4, 2022 on Apple TV+.

Causeway (2022) Movie Themes Explained:

Bonding based on a shared sense of traumas:

The connection that James and Linsey feel with one another has a bit to do with understanding the place of trauma they both come from. In several romantic narratives, it has become a trope to make two broken people entangle from the sense of healing one another. Not just is it an unrealistic expectation, but it is unhealthy for both individuals who are infatuated for such a reason. Unlike that, Causeway has a keener understanding to not let its central relationship slip into that territory.

When Linsey kisses him out of pity, James finds it hard to digest. The thought of someone wanting to be with you out of sympathy can be especially triggering. You may not want to associate or define yourself by these difficult emotions and build your entire relationship on them. Both seek a sense of companionship in one another, that does not need to be romantic. The screenplay understands that and gives the actors and the characters enough space and time to explore these parts of their psyches.

A sense of home

Home can mean different things to different people, and so does a family. The films like Hirokazu Koreeda’s Shoplifters spoke about one’s desire to find a sense of family beyond the biological one. What ‘Causeway’ shares is a sense of home the characters yearn for through the course of their knowing one another. The desire to get away from the place where the trauma occurred can seem particularly thrilling. Linsey goes to the lengths of getting back to the field before her complete recovery due to the same desire.

It is only after her understanding of her yearning does she seek a home outside of her home and not just a route to escape. Her last conversation with James is indicative of the same understanding. The poignant end is also strangely empowering for someone wanting that friendly connection beyond their kin. Causeway understands that and highlights it in a subtle manner.



Where to watch Causeway

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