Courtesy, A24

New Orleans Film Festival Review: Causeway

16:00 November 02, 2022
By: Fritz Esker

Fans of shot-in-NOLA cinema will want to check out the new drama Causeway, starring Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence (The Silver Linings Playbook). It is now playing at the Prytania Uptown for one week and then will screen there again as part of the New Orleans Film Festival on November 6.

Lawrence plays Lynsey, a soldier recovering from a traumatic brain injury suffered in Afghanistan. When she returns home to New Orleans, she struggles to regain some semblance of normalcy as she hopes to recover to the point where she can go back to active duty. In the meantime, she strikes up a friendship with James (Brian Tyree Henry), a mechanic suffering from his own demons.

There isn't much in the way of plot here. While Lynsey and James aren't the only two characters in the film, their relationship dominates the film's brief 93-minute running time. For a movie like this to work, the two leads have to be at the top of their games, and both Lawrence and Henry are up to the task. Lawrence has proved her Oscar was no accident, and Henry takes advantage of his lead role here after years of shining in supporting roles (he made a strong impression in Joker despite appearing in only a single scene).

Director Lila Neugebauer's depiction of New Orleans will likely ring true for most locals. The film is largely set in and around Uptown, and New Orleanians will spot familiar places like Hansen's Sno-Bliz and the Maple Leaf. Causeway might also be the first set-in-New-Orleans film I've seen that trots out the familiar "Where did you go to high school?" as a getting-to-know-you conversation starter.

Ultimately, Causeway works because the script (by Ottessa Moshfegh, Luke Goebel, and Elizabeth Sanders) and the actors make us care about the characters. And even though the film addresses sad and serious subjects like trauma and grieving, the movie manages to take those issues seriously without feeling like misery porn.

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