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  • Writer's pictureMax Markowitz


An Electricity Of Love

A lot of the amazing films I’ve seen this year have dealt with loneliness. I believe that the current climate we live in which is full of uncertainty and despair will continue to be the norm over the next several years. Many of us will resort to any distance we can get from a society that has shown us nothing but disappointment.

Lila Neugebauer’s directional film debut Causeway is a tender sensitive yet an uncensored examination of how loneliness stems not from being alone but not being understood. It also deals with re-entrance into a world people have tried to leave behind and what familiarity can provoke and where any nearby comfort is to be found.

Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence) is a U.S. soldier who experiences a traumatic brain injury during her time in Afghanistan forcing her to return home to New Orleans. She struggles to settle into daily life with her neglectful mother (Linda Emond) as she anxiously waits for an opportunity to redeploy. Not wanting to be around people, she takes a job cleaning swimming pools, most of which belong to people who are away, allowing her to reclaim her relationship with water. The breakdown of her truck takes her to James (Brian Tryee Henry), a grieving mechanic who’s undergone physical trauma as well.

The chemistry between Lawrence and Henry is not just chemistry - it’s the electricity of love. It’s not romantic. Love within friendships is just as powerful especially if it's not planned. No one who shuts themselves out from the world plans to form a meaningful connection but it’s so comforting when it happens. It’s like entering water that’s so freezing, but you really want to swim in it so badly. Lawrence has been absent from the screen for quite a while and her performance in Causeway is not just a reminder of her brilliance but also showcases her professionalism. The genuineness of bringing someone to life and doing her justice is never a low-level priority for her. She breathes life into every character she touches and in all the necessary silences, captures their torment, and anguish but also their comfort with the quiet and their sometimes inability to reach that level of peace.

“I’m trying to make a friend,” Lynsey says to James. They both really need to hear it at this point and any verbal confirmation is a proclamation of placing trust in someone. Of course, they need to trust themselves as well. “I’m better off here. I don’t trust myself out there” says Lynsey’s former drug-addicted brother (Russell Harvard) when she visits him in prison. The scene between them is completely done in sign language and the silence over the scene allows their actions to tell the whole story. It really was my favorite scene in the whole film because it's so hard to admit feelings you never say because admitting them makes it true. Confronting the past never fixes things but if you're lucky, they can help. I think the words of Lynsey’s brother are how she feels about Afghanistan. It’s dangerous but it’s far from where she was and there comes the point where you find yourselves kicking and banging to get far away. Causeway embraces that feeling and doesn’t make audiences feel guilty about it.

Causeway opens with Lynsey’s long and excruciating process of trying to rehabilitate herself and her visit with her brother comes towards the end. There are never any flashbacks for any of the characters. That choice really deserves a full round of applause because they’re way overdone in various films and they just aren’t always necessary. Causeway’s difficult moments, visually and silently will not be embraced by audiences of American standards. Some films require audiences to think not just after but during and I love when films give that challenge. Most do not. Neugebauer, Lawrence, and Henry have done a gorgeous job of conjuring the look, tone, and feel of both the story and the city of New Orleans. Having never been to New Orleans, only seeing it in the media, I was blown away at how genuine the Causeway's view of the city made me feel as though I’d been there many times. This comes from a film that makes just as strong an impact if you go in knowing nothing about it. I imagine this will be the case for many. The beauty of Causeway and the right audiences will find each other.

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