Year:  2022

Director:  Lila Neugebauer

Release:  November 4, 2022

Distributor: Apple TV+

Running time: 92 minutes

Worth: $18.00
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Jennifer Lawrence, Brian Tyree Henry, Linda Emond

… takes its time, but fully earns our sympathetic engagement and will linger long in the mind.

Everyone has problems, right? This film takes that commonplace starting point and delivers a subtle take on emotional hesitancy and the pain of picking yourself up. It is set in New Orleans to whose steamy/sleepy milieu Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence) comes back after a traumatic experience. She is a veteran from the war in Afghanistan and in the early stages we see her physical rehab. Her body will heal. The mental stuff might not be so clear cut.

Her mother Gloria (Linda Emond) who, for reasons of her own, has never been a very affective parent, tries to reach out, but somehow often seems to miscommunicate. Lynsey’s only brother has been removed from the scene some time ago.

Lynsey doesn’t enjoy the idea of being trapped in her old home and this hardens her resolve in deciding that the best thing would be to return to Afghanistan. This is an idea that most of her circle – including her doctor – regard as a lunatic choice. Even if she could get fit enough, there is the PTSD which is the elephant in the room.

For the moment though, she needs to earn her own money and she takes the first job available, which involves cleaning swimming pools. At this point, she bumps into James (Brian Tyree Henry – so good in the series Atlanta). He is a shy resident of her local area. He is looking for company and the two form a bond. A romantic turn soon suggests itself, but Lynsey tells him that she prefers girls. That leaves James with a dilemma, as he was hoping for more. The fact that both have some element of disability and biographical disruption is too powerful for either of them to ignore. As with everything else in their lives, it is partly a matter of aligning their expectations with what is actually available. Connection doesn’t magically solve things, but it has to be better than suffering in isolation and silence.

This is not a film that wants to tie things off nice and cleanly. Director Lila Neugebauer’s film might be described as downbeat. It is certainly low key, but there is also something impressive in its staunch resistance for easy answers. We love these characters for their way of being; not for any goals they may or may not reach.

The main strength of the film, along with its naturalistic script, is the playing. Lawrence has long since shed her young adult fiction days and has sought out more challenging material (for example her Oscar winning turn in the much-admired Silver Linings Playbook). Not for nothing is she one of Hollywood’s most rewarded young actors. She proves once again that, given the right material, she is a very fine screen performer. Tyree Henry is also an actor of great skill. His James is a totally believable creation. He never strains for effect, but he has great screen presence. The long scenes between the two are a bit of a masterclass in a certain kind of screen acting.

The films takes its time, but fully earns our sympathetic engagement and will linger long in the mind.