Some people say, “I can never go home again”. Other people say, “I never want to go home again”. In this movie, Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence) feels a little of both. She doesn’t want to go home, because in some ways she can’t go home.
Lynsey joined the military, but when she suffers a traumatic brain injury while in Afghanistan, she’s sent back to the US. First, she spends several weeks (or maybe months) with a full-time caregiver (Jayne Houdyshell) who helps her re-learn how to walk, talk, and do basic things like brush her teeth and sleep well at night. After she has recovered enough, she must go home because she can’t afford to go anywhere else.
So, she goes back to her home in New Orleans with her unreliable mother (Linda Emond) who seems to be more interested in her boyfriend (or maybe boyfriends) which Lynsey never wants to meet so the boyfriend is (or are) heard but never seen.
From the moment she gets home her main goal is to leave again, to be re-deployed. She gets a job cleaning pools, trains to get better mentally and physically back in shape, and constantly asks her doctor when she’ll be ready to re-deploy.
One day her truck stops running smoothly. She manages to get it to a car repair shop which James (Brian Tyree Henry) runs. While her car is being repaired, she bonds with James. He also has an injury – he lost a leg in a car accident – and he has a similar past.
Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry are exceptional in this movie. Jennifer’s character feels a lot like the character she played in “Winter’s Bone”, the first movie that got her an Academy Award nomination. Brian Tyree Henry is so unlike the character he played in the last movie I saw him in – “Bullet Train” – I almost think it’s a different actor with the same name and same face.
This is the first movie directed by Lila Neugebauer, who previously directed the Tony nominated restaging of “The Waverly Gallery”. According to the credits, this is also the first screenplay by Elizabeth Sanders – who based the screenplay on a short story she wrote called “Red, White, and Water” – Ottessa Moshfegh, and Luke Goebel. However, according to a cover story about Jennifer Lawrence in a recent issue of “Vogue”, the final movie “…bears only a passing resemblance to what any of them wrote.”
According to the story, they started to film the movie before the pandemic. After they shut down, Jennifer, Lila, and Brian would often workshop the script. They ended up rewriting a lot of it. Once they got back into production they rewrote and reshot several scenes. They even “did some improv on scenes when they weren’t sure which way a scene should go”.
Unfortunately, I think all the rewrites and reshoots changed the story too much. Jennifer and Brian are great in their scenes together but there’s a little too much of them together and not enough of Jennifer’s character by herself or with others. For example: there’s only one scene where her and her mother have a long conversation. There are some questions about Jennifer’s character that are never fully explained.
There are also parts of the story that I think are a little vague. For example: I believe that swimming pools are supposed to be a metaphor or a symbol for something because there’s scenes that happen in or near a swimming pool – including the conversation with Lynsey and her mother in a small children’s pool – but I don’t understand the metaphor or symbolism.
Overall, I think Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry are exceptional, but the plot of the movie often falters.
The movie is playing in a couple movie theaters in major cities and will be streaming on Apple TV starting Nov 4th.
I give it 6 out of 10 stars.