The Straight Story Reviews
Plot: After hearing that his estranged, older brother has taken seriously ill, 73-year-old Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) decides that he's going to put aside their differences and visit him before it's too late. Unable to drive a car or take public transport, Alvin buys himself a ride-on lawnmower and begins his long journey over hundreds of miles in the most unconventional way.
Not just in terms of the main characters' namesake, The Straight Story is exactly what it sounds like; a straight and simply told tale that's, without doubt, the most accessible film on Lynch's resumé. Those with a sound knowledge of Lynch will notice that the characters have no nefarious purposes, there's no metamorphosis, dream logic or hidden metaphors. This is an emotional and heartfelt odyssey about self-reflection, regrets and family connections and there's nothing to suggest that Lynch isn't absolutely at ease with lighter material. His film is a beautiful and poignant road trip that's full of pathos and stunningly captured landscapes.
Despite the simplicity, Lynch still can't contain his propensity for oddball characters and slightly off-key tones but it entirely works for this material. What's most strange about this story, though, is not as a result of Lynch's involvement but because it's actually based on a remarkable true story. The one thing that will draw reminders to Lynch's usual work is his love for small town America and the odd inhabitants therein. Although he keeps himself on a leash, he is still able to capture the idiosyncrasies and mannerisms of ordinary people which still adds a (albeit lesser) surrealistic flavour to the film.
Lynch is aided considerably with regular collaborators as well; Freddie Jones' sublime cinematography captures some stunning images and Angelo Badalamenti's beautiful score compliments the proceedings.
At the heart of the film, however, is a commanding and heartfelt central performance from Richard Farnsworth. Rightly Oscar nominated for his superb work, Farnsworth is the beating heart of this story - a man that has come to terms with himself and the mistakes he's made in life but still has enough left in his twilight years to right some wrongs. Sadly, Farnsworth's outstanding performance is tinged with poignancy and sadness itself as the actor died with a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head, shortly after the film's release. Apparently, he himself, was nearing the end of his life with bone cancer and took the decision to go out on his own terms - much like the character of Alvin Straight.
A wonderful and measured piece of storytelling from David Lynch. For those that can't handle his darker and more twisted films, then this is one for you. There's no denying it's charm and it's introspective reflection of life and all the challenges that come with it. This really is a pleasant, yet bittersweet journey.