David Lynch’s The Straight Story

I cannot explain why it has taken me such a long to do so, but I have just watched for the very first time David Lynch’s marvellous 1999 film The Straight Story.

In it, Richard Farnsworth (in an Oscar nominated performance) plays Alvin Straight an Iowa farmer who travels by lawnmower 300 miles to Wisconsin to visit his dying brother (Harry Dean Stanton) from whom he’s been estranged for over a decade.

Along the way, as in all “road movies”, (and this is essentially a road movie which has as its main protagonist who is at the end rather than, as with most examples of the genre the beginning of his days) he encounters a small cross-section of the residents of rural America.

However, this is not the usual Lynchian gaze at what is most weird about American life. All the people Straight meets along the way are helpful and understanding and lend some kind of support to his odyssey,  and Lynch endows them with a quiet dignity that he no doubt admires.

This is a film that has to be seen more than once to be fully appreciated. The scene in which Straight reminisces with a fellow veteran about the horrors of the Second World War sticks in the mind long after the film is over. To achieve that effect in full, Lynch does nothing more than keep his camera trained of the faces of the actors.

This is David Lynch at his very best. The Straight Story may not be a typical Lynch film, but it’s a great one nonetheless.

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