Then Playing — Causeway; All Quiet on the Western Front; Remember My Name

Causeway (Lila Neugebauer, 2022). In a welcome return to a more small-scale drama, Jennifer Lawrence plays Lynsey, a soldier who returns to her home city of New Orleans after sustaining a traumatic brain injury while deployed in Afghanistan. Lawrence is generally strong in the rule, but it’s been a long enough time since she played a real person that there might be a little rust there; some of her choices show. As a mechanic with his own physical and emotional trauma who Lynsey befriends, Brian Tyree Henry is exceptional, keeping scenes grounded no matter how intense they get. First-time feature director Lila Neugebauer is expertly careful with tone, portraying people on the lower end of the class structure without condescending or lapsing into exploitation. Even when the plot takes its turns too sharply, Neugebauer keeps Causeway steady by sharply focusing on the details of recovery and the many ways that ache lingers.

All Quiet on the Western Front (Edward Berger, 2022). In adapting the 1929 German novel about the multitudes of misery found on the battlefields on World War I, director Edward Berger and his collaborators really commit to depicting atrocity. All Quiet on the Western Front largely follows Paul (Felix Kammerer), who enlists in the German army while still a teenager and gets more than his fair share of blood, much, and enveloping fear. He’s almost incidental, though, not particularly more or less memorable than any of the uniformed individuals sent out for slaughter. Much as Berger tilts the film towards horror, it is arguably at its most damning and effective in depicting the comparable comfort of the military and political leadership far from the lines who prolong the human misery through their pettiness, impulsiveness, and inclination towards pointless ceremony. The film could have used a little more of that glum commentary. Instead, the main impression it leaves is that it’s a work that’s technically impressive and emotionally inert.

Remember My Name (Alan Rudolph, 1978). Even at their sturdiest, Alan Rudolph films tend to operate in a mode that resembles a dream state. Logic and storytelling cohesion are clearly less valued than woozy mood. That’s certainly the case with the early effort Remember My Name. Geraldine Chaplin plays Emily, a woman fresh out of prison who resides in a halfway house and works as a churlish department store cashier. That job is a sideline to her main interest: stalking a carpenter named Neil (Anthony Perkins). As Rudolph slow plays revelations about their intertwined history, he allows plenty of space for Chaplin to give an inventive performance that highlights the more disconcerting qualities of her character. The film suffers somewhat because Perkins isn’t particularly convincing in his role, but there are compensations in the brief but colorful performances across the supporting cast, including early work from Jeff Goldblum and Alfre Woodard.

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