The Straight Story
- Richard Farnsworth as Alvin Straight
- Sissy Spacek as Rose Straight
- Everett McGill as Tom
- Harry Dean Stanton as Lyle Straight
- Kevin Farley as Harald Olsen
- John P.Farley as Thorvald Olsen
A simple, heartfelt and endearing look at the strength of the spirit, The Straight Story marks a change in direction for David Lynch, who is usually known for surreal and controversial films. Incredibly based on a true story and boasting a restrained Oscar-nominated performance by Richard Farnsworth, the film is both poignant and relatable in equal measure.
Alvin Straight is an old World War II veteran living in Iowa with his daughter Rose, who suffers from a speech impediment. He is in bad health, being told that he is going blind and that his legs are failing by his local doctor. He is also informed that his estranged brother Lyle, who lives in Wisconsin, has recently suffered a stroke. Knowing that time is not on his side and desperate to heal old scars, the stubborn Alvin decides to take a rather interesting trip to visit his brother. As he can’t drive, he uses a trusted lawnmower and decides to embark on the odyssey alone, despite the pleas of his friends and family. What follows on is a beautifully realised road movie, peppered by interesting characters and Alvin’s affect on their lives as he attempts to reach his brother .
The cinematography used is exemplary in showing the natural beauty of Alvin’s quest, bathing fields in a hue of gold and capturing the sun emerging from behind mountains. The screenplay should also be praised for not falling into cloying sentimentality or melodrama, rather focusing on the immensely personal journey of one man who won’t let his age beat him. Above all, the thing that anchors the film is Farnsworth’s poignant, subtle performance. He creates an eccentric character who is old in years, yet young in spirit, mind and determination. Knowing that Farnsworth was ill during filming and that he died a year after the film’s release adds another level of pathos to his already outstanding portrayal. Many moments of his performance stick in the mind, such as his moralistic lesson he gives to young bikers, his fireside chat with a runaway teenager about the importance of family, his funny handling of two bickering twins who try to charge him too much for repairs to his vehicle and the quiet tears he cries when chatting with an old veteran. Sissy Spacek is also touching in her supporting role, both showing the caring side of her and the scarred other side that life has inflicted on her.
With The Straight Story, David Lynch has created a heartfelt tribute to the themes of redemption and coming to terms with the realisation of one’s age. Although the basic premise may sound like uncharacteristic material for him, he actually crafts an emotionally moving tale that is hard not to like. The slow-moving pace of the film may put off some, yet it also helps create a beautiful and evocative testament to Alvin and his undying determination to complete his journey. All in all, The Straight Story was heartfelt viewing and I advise people to see it.