I’ve now (finally) caught up with David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” and “Mulholland Dr.” Those films have given me an idea of what the term Lynchian really means. Yet while both of those movies have their merits, the director made an entirely different movie called ”The Straight Story” that’s virtually unrecognizable in his ouvre.
I saw this simple, straightforward film at the age of 7 upon its release in 1999. Even then, its beauty was not lost on me. I recently watched it again only to find that my critical instincts from a very young age were completely vindicated, so I figured it would make an excellent pick for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”
Though it’s easy enough for a child to understand, this is a film that works for everyone ages 7 to 77. ”The Straight Story” is about family, love, and dedication at its purest. The late Richard Farnsworth, nearing the end of his life as the movie was shot, pours his heart and soul into the role of Alvin Straight. He’s a simple country man in deteriorating health unable to drive a car to visit his ailing and estranged brother, Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton).
But that doesn’t stop the iron-willed Alvin. He decides to buy a tractor and drive it from his home in Iowa all the way up to Lyle in Wisconsin. At a speed of never more than 6 miles per hour, Alvin and his trailer chug through America’s heartland. Along the way, he meets fascinating people that give the journey a powerful emotional component.
Lynch has called “The Straight Story” his most experimental film, a strange distinction given some of the bizarre things that have happened in some of his other movies. However, the film isn’t merely worth remembering due to the fact that the raw, unadulterated compassion is emanating from David Lynch. It’s one of the sweetest, most heartfelt films I’ve ever seen from any filmmaker, period. This is the ultimate family movie, so gather everyone around the television and watch it with the whole crew.