• Festivals

TIFF 2022: “Causeway” with Jennifer Lawrence

Three-time Golden Globe winner Jennifer Lawrence returns to her indie roots in the upcoming drama Causeway, taking on roles both in front of and behind the camera as leading lady and producer.  More recently known for such mainstream fare as Silver Linings Playbook, The Hunger Games and X-Men franchises, American Hustle, Passengers, and Red Sparrow, Lawrence began her career in the critically acclaimed indie film Winter’s Bone, in 2011. That performance ignited her career, earning her both a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nomination, and establishing her as a viable leading lady in Hollywood.

Lawrence shines again in Causeway, a role far from anything remotely glamorous, which features her as Lynsey, a soldier who has sustained a traumatic brain injury in her tour in Afghanistan. Forced to return home to New Orleans, she grapples with life as a civilian, living with her mother while she eagerly awaits her eventual redeployment. 

She stars opposite Brian Tyree Henry (If Beale Street Could Talk, Atlanta) with a supporting cast that includes Linda Edmond, Samira Wiley and Jane Houdyshell. Making her feature film debut is theater director Lila Neugebauer with a script written by Luke Goebel, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Elizabeth Sanders.


At the Toronto Film Festival, the actors have assembled to discuss the movie. Lawrence says, “I identified [with the story]. I felt something in my gut when I read this. That kind of immediate, ‘We have to make this!’ And I identify with that feeling of trying to find your home and trying to find where you have purpose. I left home when I was 14 and my relationship with home has always been complicated,” she explains. “So that made me emotional.”

The central theme is about the relationship between Lynsey and a mechanic she meets, James (Henry), both of them wounded spirits suffering from their respective traumas. They become friends when they discover their shared experience with tragic events which changed their lives.

James’ life changed forever after a car accident resulted in the death of his nephew and the loss of his leg. Henry says of the film, “We got to go back and kind of peel back the layers of who these characters were and what their lives were. A lot of this movie reflected a lot of personal things going on. I’ve been navigating trauma for a long time in my life with the loss of my mother. Today is her birthday, which is crazy,” he says, shaking his head. “We tend to think that most of the things that we feel or things that we’ve lost become disabilities and they’re not.”

Naturally, Neugebauer spent a lot of time researching trauma. “It was apparent to me from the outset that I would not and could not make this film without consulting meaningfully with medical experts in the field of traumatic brain injury,” she explains. “I had the remarkable opportunity to talk at great length and consult at great length with neurologists and occupational physiotherapists. Jen and I spent a transformative day at the VA [Veterans Administration] in New York, called New York Harbor Health. And we also spent a great deal of time at the New Orleans VA. The physiotherapist and occupational therapist there equipped us with key insights that informed our physical work and the rehabilitation photography in the film,” she notes. “It sounds so hyperbolic but it really was life-changing.”


Producer Justine Polsky, who has worked with Lawrence for many years as an assistant on such movies as Silver Linings Playbook, Xmen: Days of Future Past, Serena, American Hustle and the Hunger Games says, “I think for Jen, it’s been a minute since she has been in such a stripped down, internal mode. It was so exciting to think about seeing Jen move in this space again and do a true character piece.”