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Review: 'Causeway' with Jennifer Lawrence is beyond boring. It'll put you to sleep

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Jennifer Lawrence in of her most lively moments in “Causeway.” Photo: Wilson Webb/Associated Press

“Causeway” contains solid performances and provides a significant and atypical showcase for a major American actress. It also tackles a subject that’s real, that’s out there in our world, but that’s pretty much ignored by movies.

Moreover, it’s a small picture dealing with human beings, and not one of those monstrous blockbusters dealing in superheroes, space aliens or life after the apocalypse.

All this should argue in favor of “Causeway” and would, but for one thing: It’s boring. But no, the word “boring” isn’t enough. We need extra “O’s,” as in boosting, yet even that won’t do it. If Boredom itself bought a ticket and went to “Causeway,” it would fall asleep.

The movie’s problems are basic but nonetheless fatal, and have to do with all aspects of “Causeway” — plotting, character, the relationships, the goal of the central character. At every turn, whenever the screenwriters accidentally stumbled upon the possibility of drama, they ran the other way. “Causeway” is only a “drama” in the sense that it’s definitely not funny.

Jennifer Lawrence plays a soldier who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan, but the movie isn’t about her recovery; the movie makes it clear in the first minutes that she’s going to be just fine. Instead, our heroine’s goal is to overcome her lingering post-traumatic stress so she can be certified to return to active duty. She wants to “re-deploy.”

Right there, that’s a bit of a problem, in that audiences want protagonists to have goals they can support. But there’s no way for an audience to endorse this woman’s return to a war zone.

And why is she so intent on going back? Does she want to have a great military career? No. Is she convinced that she can do good overseas? No. She just hates living with her mother. Ah, maybe some drama there! Maybe her mother is awful! But no, mom, played by Linda Emond, isn’t bad at all. She’s just irresponsible, like a 60-year-old teenager but basically nice. So, no drama there.

While stateside, Lynsey (Lawrence) meets a sympathetic named James (Brian Tyree Henry), so maybe “Causeway” could be a romance? No, because it turns out that Lynsey is a lesbian.

Brian Tyree Henry in “Causeway.” Photo: Wilson Webb/Associated Press

But wait, we can work with that. The movie’s idea is that they develop a bond grounded in something besides physical attraction. Turns out, James suffered a major trauma, too. They have pain and suffering in common. They talk about that.

And they keep talking—very—very—slowly. Director Lila Neugebauer seems to have directed Lawrence and Henry to pause 10 seconds in between sentences. Their conversations consist mostly of pauses. In truth, they don’t have much to say, and for good reason. They’re just not interesting people.

Their situation may be interesting — kind of — but these characters are only about the respective situations in which they find themselves. The writers apparently never bothered to give them personalities, and they never gave them a single thing to say that’s surprising or worth hearing.

For this reason, the experience of seeing “Causeway” isn’t what you’d imagine while trying to decide whether to watch a 92-minute movie about a veteran’s slow recovery. It feels more like moving in with her — invisible — for weeks, and watching as she makes a sandwich or stars into space.

That isn’t drama. That’s practically audience abuse. Clearly, people meant well with “Causeway,” and that counts for something, but it just didn’t work out.


“Causeway”: Drama. Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry. Directed by Lila Neugebauer. (R. 92 mins.) Available to stream Friday, Nov. 4, on Apple TV+.