The Straight Story


Directed by: David Lynch
Written by:John Roach, Mary Sweeney
Starring: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Harry Dean Stanton, Everett McGill
Released: July 16, 2000
Grade: A

Laurens is a small, quiet town in Iowa.  It is home for 73-year-old Alvin Straight (Farnsworth).  Alvin can barely walk (he requires two canes) and can no longer drive.  His daughter Rose takes care of him as life is slowly fading away.

When he receives a phone call bringing news that his brother has had a stroke, he decides it is time to go see him in Mt. Zion, Wisconsin.  They have not spoken in ten years but Alvin feels that with little time left for both of them, it’s time to bury the hatchet.

Just how exactly is Alvin going to travel the 300 odd miles to Mt. Zion?  By a ride-on lawnmower.  It’s about the only thing Alvin can still drive and he sets off, determined to make the trip on his own.  It is his own way of paying penance for his failure to reconcile with his brother all those years ago.

Along the way, Alvin meets an assortment of characters and his kindness and decency touch their lives.  Overnight he sleeps in a small trailer towed behind the mower and eats nothing much more than wieners for the whole trip.  Like old folk are, he was determined to do it his way.

This is a true story.  The real Alvin Straight travelled this journey back in 1994 before passing away in 1996 and the film is dedicated to his memory.

It’s hard to believe that David Lynch is behind the camera for this G-rated flick from Walt Disney.  When you consider Lynch’s most famous works - Blue Velvet, Lost Highway and the TV series Twin Peaks, you would think a film like The Straight Story would be the last project he would tackle.

Lynch, boosted by cinematography from Freddie Francis and music from Angelo Badalamenti has painted a picturesque portrait of Southern America.  The film is a magical tapestry of sights and sounds.  Lynch, enhancing the viewing experience, captures everything from a beautiful sunset to the sound of a harvester with immaculate precision.

Given the material, this film could so easily have been a tiring bore that is even more credit to the talent of David Lynch and the crew.  Richard Farnsworth, who this year became the oldest actor in history to receive an Academy Award nomination, is wonderful as Alvin.  It was the role of a lifetime and it’s funny that he’s had to wait 79 years for the opportunity.