Causeway (noun): a raised way across wet ground or water.
And yes, I did have to Google what that word meant. After watching the entire film, I had no real idea of what the title represented. But in looking back, even if I had known the word prior to watching, its meaning in relation to the movie wouldn’t have made a bit of sense until I was finished with it.
Lila Neugebauer’s Causeway is about two people who just have their feet above the water line. One misstep and they could both go tumbling into the deep, but together, they balance each other out.
From the outside looking in, the premise of Causeway seems pretty straightforward: Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence) suffers a traumatic brain injury while serving as an Army engineer in Afghanistan and returns home to New Orleans to recover, though when she returns, she ends up striking up an unlikely friendship with a car mechanic, James (Brian Tyree Henry), who has some trauma of his own.
Leaning more so into the dialogue and less into outside factors that distract, Causeway centers its audience right on the present in the same way that Lynsey has to focus on her recovery.
Causeway is definitely quiet, though as Lynsey trucks on through her recovery, the world around her gets a little bit louder, a little more open.
While Lynsey is more so a shell of herself at the beginning of the film, she slowly but surely settles back into things as time passes on and her recovery continues. She transitions from somber to sunny, and—I have to say—a lot of that credit goes to James, who she meets after her car breaks down back home in New Orleans. He immediately notices the internal hurt inside of her and takes the reigns when it’s obvious that Lynsey has gone through some sort of major trauma.
Stressed out and still struggling after rehab, Lynsey can’t remember her phone number to give to James so that he can call her back about the car repairs—actually, she doesn’t even know it.
“I don’t know my number,” Lynsey says. “I really don’t know my number.”
“Can I see your phone?” James asks. “What I’ma do, is I’ma call me, right? And that way, my number will show up, all right? Simple as that.”
It’s an extremely tiny interaction, but in the way that James speaks to Lynsey at that moment, it’s clear that there’s something else there—it takes someone who’s been hurt to recognize and understand that hurt in others.
While some might feel that the flaws in this film come through in the tired hours of Lynsey and James aimlessly drinking beer and smoking weed, it’s that empty time of tiny words and togetherness that shows growth isn’t always linear—it can sprout in times of seeming nothingness.
More than anything, Causeway is honest—both in itself as a film and within its characters, who share deep flaws that are tough to accept. But it’s within James acknowledging those flaws for Lynsey (and vice-versa) that they’re both able to come to terms with themselves.
James and Lynsey found themselves in situations where they walked away with a major loss, which is why they were able to understand each other at such a molecular, unconscious level. To them, the future is for change, and the present is for making it to that next day—to that future.
Though the two experienced different types of trauma, together, they can heal together from the wounds, both gaping and invisible, keeping the other from falling off the causeway.
Causeway is currently streaming on AppleTV+.