The Straight Story

The Straight Story

****1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Five years ago a 73-year-old man, called Alvin Straight, drove a motor mower from Laurens, Iowa, to Mt Zion, Wisconsin, to see his elder brother, who was ill. They hadn't spoken for a decade. This was by way of a reconcilliation.

Alvin's eyesight was bad enough to put paid to any thoughts of car travel and he didn't want to take the bus, or ask anyone to help out. Although his hips were darned near useless and he walked with two sticks, he reckoned he could manage the 300 miles on his own.

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When you move real slow, big trucks tend to blow your hat off and rain soaks you and everything is mighty close. The corn fields of the mid West, like oceans, ripple on either side, while above is spread a blanket of stars in the chill of night. The good people of the small towns along the way offered help and hot meals and the comfort of conversation.

It took a certain kind of obstinacy to make this journey and a certain kind of faith to make this film. David Lynch is known for eccentricity of a more violent nature (Blue Velvet, Wild At Heart), which only goes to show that pigeon holes are for pigeons.

Alvin has little adventures. He meets strangers, who are intrigued and especially hospitable. Snatches of dialogue reveal insights into personal histories. Sentiment is carefully controlled and dignity retained throughout. Richard Farnsworth gives one of those performances that redefines the use of the superlative. Such naturalism demands respect, while being, in the style of great Western character acting, magnificent.

Lynch's achievement cannot be underestimated. He likes to maintain that he is telling a simple story straight - he enjoys the pun - but to have done so without boring everyone to death takes a very special talent. Far from dull, The Straight Story is, for heaven's sake, gripping. It also has the ever-wonderful Sissy Spacek, as Alvin's mentally disadvantaged daughter, being, as only she knows how, ever-wonderful.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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True life story of a man who crossed America on a lawnmower to see his brother.
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Director: David Lynch

Writer: Mary Sweeney, John Roach

Starring: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Jane Galloway Heitz, Anastasia Webb, Harry Dean Stanton

Year: 1999

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

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