Jennifer Lawrence and Brian Tyree Henry in a character study – Deadline

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Jennifer Lawrence, who won the Best Actress Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook in 2012 and followed with a number of high-profile films like The hunger Games series, american unrest, Passengersand mother!, hasn’t been seen on screen in a pure lead role since 2018 Red sparrow. Last year she returned as part of Adam McKay’s all-star ensemble don’t look up, and now she’s finally back in a starring role in the touching but relatively small drama Pavement, which had its world premiere today at the Toronto Film Festival.

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As a returning veteran who was injured in Afghanistan, Lawrence once again gets the chance to turn down the volume and deliver a low-key performance minus any hint of some of the flashiest roles she’s landed since joining. received his first Oscar nomination in 2010. Winter’s Bone. It’s a delight to see this immensely talented star step down a few notches and throw herself into a low-key portrayal of a woman who suffers not only from the effects of physical injuries, but deeper down from the invisible wounds inside that have taken their toll. devastating effects. on his ability to lead a normal life.

Lawrence plays Lynsey, who worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan and suffered injuries to her body and brain when the vehicle she was traveling in hit an explosive. After a period of intense rehabilitation, she returns home to New Orleans (presented in a different light than seen in countless films) where she returns to live with her mother (Linda Emond), a loving but very difficult personality who doesn’t help matters. with a girl who needed to be reoriented in a life devastated by her experience of war.

Taking hesitant steps in life, but actually wanting to recover enough to undertake another tour, she gets a job as a pool cleaner much to her mother’s dismay. It’s something simplistic enough that she can handle it, or at least believe it, but when her truck abandons her, she takes her to an auto repair shop where she meets a mechanic named James (Brian Tyree Henry ), with whom she forges an unlikely friendship of sorts — a friendship that both reaches uncomfortable levels after being casual new friends, both in their own ways exploring the possibilities beyond.

Their connection turns out to be the shared physical and psychological recovery process after a life-altering accident, in James’ case involving a car and the death of his nephew, and the loss of a leg. In a harrowing and beautifully understated scene, details of her own trauma are revealed as they sit beside a swimming pool she tends to. The fragile connection of two very fragile people, eager for human interaction but almost unable to let go, is heartbreaking. Both are caught at the crossroads of needing to love again, or even for the first time, but they aren’t convinced it’s something they deserve or even want at this point in their lives.

With a screenplay by novelist Ottessa Moshfegh, Luke Goebel and Elizabeth Sanders, and neat, unstylized direction by fledgling filmmaker Lila Neugebauer, Pavement is ultimately a short human story (it only lasts 92 minutes) of the life sentence of trauma, its real-time effects, but more impactful of its irrevocable impact on the lives of two people, still in pain, but who look at each other to help each other pass to the other side. This is indeed a character study gem of two damaged people played by a pair of exceptional actors who have never let us see them. acting. Lawrence may have waited a few years to reappear in a full-fledged leading role, but this is one that confirms the fact that he’s an amazing range, able to tell us everything about a person without really narrative us nothing at all. It’s all there in the eyes. Henry is quite his equal here, showing again that he’s one of the best actors around, capable of stealing a silly movie like the current one. High-speed train, and equally capable of capturing the soul of a man who is afraid to face his past, but who hopes there might be something more.

The film is owned by Lawrence and Henry, but there’s very limited support from Emond who’s still reliable, with Jayne Houdyshell in an early scene helping rehabilitate Lynsey, and Stephen McKinley Henderson as the doctor among others who show up. here and there. Diego Garcia’s cinematography and Jack Fisk’s production design beautifully add to the ambiance of this effective and moving tender drama.

The producers are Lawrence and Justine Ciarrocchi. The collaboration between Apple Original Films and A24 will open in select theaters and begin streaming on Apple TV+ on November 4.

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