“Bathrooms can be dangerous,” says the kindly physiotherapist who is charged with patching up the shattered motor skills of former US soldier Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence). Lynsey was, until recently, serving in Afghanistan, so she knows a thing or two about danger. But following a brain injury, her immediate challenges are no longer IEDs but the threat of slipping in the shower. It’s a lot to take on board for a fiercely independent woman who had chosen her army career partly for the distance it afforded her from her home, from her unreliable mother (Linda Emond) and the buried traumas of her upbringing. Initially just marking time until she is well enough to redeploy, Lynsey takes a job cleaning pools and strikes up a friendship with James (Brian Tyree Henry), an amputee mechanic who is attempting to fix her borrowed truck. And it’s this – the unexpected bond between strangers who didn’t know they needed each other – that is the picture’s heart.
This subdued, sensitive drama explores wounds that run deeper than Lynsey’s head injury or James’s missing leg. Director Lila Neugebauer, making her feature debut following work in series such as the Netflix production Maid, opts for an unshowy realism that emphasises the chewiness of the actors’ work. Lawrence is phenomenal, giving the kind of wary, reined-in performance that made such a compelling impression in her breakthrough film, Winter’s Bone. And the always excellent Henry gradually strips back a character who at first seems wholly at ease with life to reveal layers of suppressed guilt and pain.