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#TIFF22 Review: Causeway (Special Presentations)

September 12, 2022

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8th to 18th.

Jennifer Lawrence makes a long-awaited return to more indie roles in Causeway, portraying a soldier returning from Afghanistan with a traumatic brain injury. She delivers a stripped down performance that recalls her earlier work, but the film around her ultimately feels frustratingly and surprisingly slight given its star power.

The film opens with Lawrence’s Lynsey barely able to walk or move, receiving physical therapy and working to regain her motor function. Once out of rehab, Lynsey goes back to live with her mother (Linda Emond) in New Orleans, returning to a troubled family home. She gets a job cleaning pools and meets local mechanic James (Brian Tyree Henry), forging a tentative friendship with him as she counts down the days until she is deemed well enough to re-enlist.

Directed by Lila Neugebauer, a stage and TV director making her feature debut, Causeway has some of the challenges of a first film (there were rumours of various production troubles). The formulaic script by Otessa Moshfegh, Luke Goebel and Elizabeth Sanders constantly feels like it is holding itself back, with a lot of back and forth conversations that don’t necessarily go as deep as they want to. Despite essentially being a two-hander that allows for long dialogue scenes, the characters still feel somewhat one-note and underwritten, despite the best efforts of its leads.

The film feels short at only 92 minutes (Lynsey’s near-complete physical recovery feels like it happens almost immediately within the first few minutes, a great disservice), yet it also drags somewhat as it moves at a mostly aimless pace that only delivers occasional moments of genuine emotion. The whole thing feels somewhat dull, and lacks much visual interest, with a flat, greyish look to it. What keeps the film afloat are the fine performances from Lawrence (whose best moment is a monologue about her injuries and PTSD) and especially Henry, who brings both a natural charm and pathos to the role that feels deeper than what is necessarily on the page.

Public Screenings:

Saturday, September 10th – 5:30 PM at Royal Alexandra Theatre

Sunday, September 11th – 1:00 PM at Scotiabank 1

Thursday, September 15th – 3:00 PM at VISA Screening Room at the Princess of Wales

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