‘Causeway’ Ending, Explained: Why Did Lynsey Want To Return To Military? What Happens Between Her & James?


The drama film “Causeway” is a subdued and subtle experience that succeeds in making an overall impact with regard to what it wants to present. With the human struggle following extreme trauma as its focus, the film follows Lynsey, an engineer in the army, as she attempts to return to normal life after serious injuries. “Causeway” is mostly carried by the brilliant performances of Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry, both of whom flesh out its story of trauma and friendship in a superbly convincing manner.

Spoilers Ahead

‘Causeway’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?

Being a part of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Lynsey had been in service in Afghanistan when she experienced and survived a car explosion, leaving her with severe brain injury and trauma. She is returned to the US for treatment, and after initially recovering, she is sent to a sort of specialized patient health care home, and this is where “Causeway” begins. Sharon, the woman who lovingly takes care of Lynsey for the next few weeks, does her very best to try and get the young woman back to normalcy. However, things are not so easy for Lynsey, for she still carries the effects of the accident not just physically, as she struggles with simple motor actions and body coordination, like using her hands to write or hold things, but even more so mentally. She finds it difficult and frustrating to accept her condition and has to deal with its physical effects. Gradually, with Sharon’s selfless and unending care, Lynsey does recover and is able to walk and drive around, even though some of the physical problems still persist. Sharon suggests that some more days spent with her at the care home wouldn’t do Lynsey any harm, but the young woman quickly dismisses such a plan, saying that she cannot afford more of the service. With no immediate potential of her returning to service and her time at the health care home at an end, Lynsey is let out to return home to New Orleans and get back to her family. But it is apparent that the woman does not enjoy the prospect of this return, as she struggles with all her already overbearing mental trauma, added to loneliness over the next few weeks until Lynsey strikes up a new bond of genuine friendship.

How Do Lynsey And James Connect And Become Companions?

From the very moment that Lynsey reaches New Orleans and steps into her empty house, it becomes clear that she does not have anyone to genuinely spend time with. She talks of her mother and brother as being her family, but their presence is not felt in her life at all. Lynsey spends her entire first day back home by herself inside her house, and it is only late at night that her mother, Gloria, returns home. The mother expresses surprise at the fact that Lynsey had returned a few days before she had originally planned to, but her generally distant relationship with her daughter is quite apparent in this very first scene. It does not seem like Gloria and Lynsey are seeing each other after many months (at least) of being apart, and Gloria remains busy with her own life for the rest of the time too. Whenever Lynsey talks about her brother, she does so in the past tense, giving the idea that the brother, who had been a drug addict from his teenage years, has possibly passed away. But along with this loneliness, there is also the determination and thought of getting back to life that eats away at Lynsey’s mind. She appears truly out of her comfort zone inside her own house, especially in a condition of body and mind where she struggles to even grasp things with her hands. Perhaps as a push to get back to normalcy, Lynsey finds an odd job as a pool cleaner in the neighborhood and keeps herself busy with it. But the sense of loneliness lingers on still, as “Causeway” never shows any single interaction that the woman has with any of the residents of the houses where she goes to clean pools. These houses are either empty because the residents are away from the city, or maybe the owners do not feel it important to have any interaction with their pool cleaner.

It is not that Lynsey is actively looking for friends or interactions either, or the very first time that she meets James is also because of professional needs. The car that she had been driving, most possibly her mother’s old vehicle, breaks down one day, and she takes it to a repair shop to get it checked. James, a man slightly older than her, is the owner and main mechanic of this shop, and he does take a fancy to Lynsey right away. This interest is not necessarily a physical attraction, but by the end of the film, it seems almost like James is able to sense loneliness and the overbearing effect of trauma in the woman, much like his own self. It must be mentioned here that Lynsey does have a blanket of sadness over her throughout the film, which is portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence to great effect. While James offers Lynsey a ride the first time, the two loners soon become companions to each other, helping each other with chores, smoking weed in parks, and driving around for drinks at pubs. Even though a friendly vibe of romantic interest does linger for a moment or two, it is wiped out when Lynsey says that she is only attracted to women. This does not affect their friendship or companionship, which is perhaps a better term in the context, and Lynsey often invites James to the empty houses where she goes to work and takes a swim in the pool.

Over all this time, James reveals the overbearing trauma that he himself has been living with, as a road accident a few years back led to him losing a leg. While that could be replaced with a prosthetic limb, the effect of this accident on the man’s life was much graver. He had been in the car with his sister and young nephew at the time, and although he had had only two beers, James had lost control of the car, which led to the death of his nephew. The fact that he had let the young boy sit in the passenger seat at the front of the car despite his sister wanting otherwise also made James more guilty. His sister perhaps had the same opinion, and she had moved away from her brother’s house and life following the accident. For the most part, “Causeway” is about the coming together of these two lonely souls, who open up and talk to each other, which is more support than anyone else had given them in their recent pasts. Lynsey and James do eventually have a slight fallout, though, when the woman kisses her friend and then immediately apologizes for it, saying that she did so because she felt bad for him. James is angered by one more person feeling bad for him, and he goes away from the scene and ignores Lynsey’s calls for the next few days.

Why Does Lynsey Try So Hard To Be Redeployed And Be Back At Service?

Ever since returning to New Orleans, all Lynsey seems most excited about or looking forward to is leaving again. Lynsey’s internal struggles with trauma become an important focus in the film, and her desperate attempt not to give up to the dark and gloomy possibilities of her situation is felt throughout. To a patient with extreme trauma like her, it is perhaps more difficult to make that attempt at getting back to normal life than to give up and lose faculties of mind and body gradually. In the case of Lynsey, it is perhaps all the more difficult because of her condition at home and with her family. Her mother, Gloria, stays totally immersed in her own life with her friends and lover, so much so that there are days when Lynsey does not even get to see her until late at night. Her brother, even though not dead, is in prison, serving time for drug smuggling and peddling. Even though it is not directly spelled out, there is a feeling that neither of the siblings had a healthy life while growing up, and although the sister managed to carve out a decent life for herself, the brother never could. Towards the end of the film, Lynsey goes to meet her brother in prison, and it is revealed that the brother is deaf, which all the more explains why their mother did not say anything to him even after his involvement with drugs, out of blind unhealthy sympathy for him.

Lynsey keeps checking the requirements to be redeployed to service in the military and then convinces her doctor to declare her fit for service. Firstly, it is a terrible fate for her to have to live even weeks with the thought that she is unable to perform basic things and movements of the body. Added to that, Lynsey also knows that if she gives up, then having to live her life back at home would be all the more cumbersome and tedious, to the point that such a fate might break her spirit. When the doctor warns her of the possibility of PTSD due to the immense trauma that she had suffered, Lynsey admits that it was not just her time in Afghanistan that was traumatic, indicating that her time growing up in her house and the time spent with her generally unconcerned mother were also similar. She knows that perhaps in the causeway of life, the only way out is to keep driving ahead and not be pulled back by all that has already been passed.

‘Causeway’ Ending Explained: Does Lynsey Reconcile With James At The End?

Lynsey finally gets permission to apply for redeployment from her doctor, and she seems content with life for the first time since the beginning of the film. Unlike any other scene in the entire film, she is now seen amidst a big crowd in a public pool, which she herself enters for a swim. Having tried to reach James earlier on the phone and at his shop, she now goes to his house, which she had visited earlier. During their days spent together, James had suggested that Lynsey move into his house and stay with him only to provide company to each other. After his sister had left, James’ house kept seeming way bigger than it had to be, and he wanted someone to share coffee and cigarettes with. Lynsey now tells him that she will not be going away for service until sometime in the future and that she wants to move in with him. Placing a pack of beers that she had carried, Lynsey simply states that she is trying to make a friend, perhaps the only one at least in her civilian life, and “Causeway” cuts to its end.

Much like most of the film, the last scene has a subtle emotional touch. It is like a friend making an attempt to win the other friend over after a silly misunderstanding and childish fallout. There can be no doubt that Lynsey and James do reconcile at the end, even though it is not visually presented and even though their misunderstanding and fallout were not so silly after all. Yet, if there is anyone who would understand and feel either Lynsey’s or James’ situation, it is the other, and so their companionship is bound to turn into a genuine friendship that lasts forever.

“Causeway” is a 2022 Drama film directed by Lila Neugebauer.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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