Greetings again from the darkness. A soldier’s injuries come in too many types to describe, and we often see the emotional side is every bit as difficult to recover from as a physical injury. PTSD is frequently explored in films, and in Lila Neugebauer’s first feature film, it corresponds to a severe brain injury. Combining on the screenplay were co-writers Ottessa Moshfegh, Luke Goebel, and Elizabeth Sanders, and their ‘quiet’ approach works thanks to superb performances from Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry.
We first see a silent Lynsey (Ms. Lawrence) being taken into the care of Sharon (a terrific Jayne Houdyshell). Lynsey rarely speaks and her motor skills are corrupted. Sharon must help her with such mundane movements as picking up a glass of water, brushing her teeth, using the toilet, or even standing. The recovery from a brain injury is long and arduous and never guaranteed, but we flash forward to see Lynsey’s progress and ultimate return to her hometown of New Orleans where her further recovery will occur.
Her mother (Linda Emond) isn’t there to pick Lynsey up from the bus stop, and it’s our first indication of the long-ago disconnect between mother and daughter. Lynsey is determined to recover and be cleared for redeployment. The military was her initial escape from this life, so she’s banking on it happening again. Her goal is to have her neurologist (Stephen McKinley Henderson) sign the waiver, clearing her for active duty. To help her cause, she takes a job cleaning pools, and when her truck’s carburetor dies, Lynsey meets shop owner James (Brian Tyree Henry), and the two quickly establish a friendship.
Lynsey and James are both broken, lonely souls who share the pain that accompanies pasts highlighted by trauma. Neither is quick to discuss, but we soon enough learn about the roadside bombs that got Lynsey, and enough of James’ story to understand why he drinks and smokes and is understanding of her situation. Jennifer Lawrence has an emotional scene with her brother (Russell Harvard), and her scenes with Ms. Emond convey exactly what we need to know, but it’s her scenes with Brian Tyree Henry that showcase the highest standard of grounded acting … characters we believe exist. Although the script shortchanges the struggles involved with recovering from a brain injury, the two actors capture the essence of broken souls in need of this unlikely friendship.
Streaming on AppleTV+ beginning November 4, 2022