The true story of Alvin Straight, who drove from Iowa to Wisconsin
on a riding mower to make amends with his estranged brother.
The Straight Story (1999)
Directed by David Lynch
Written by John Roach and Mary Sweeney
Starring Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Everett McGill,
James Cada, Wiley Harker, Harry Dean Stanton
Oscar Nominations - Best Actor (Richard Farnsworth)
I don't think anyone expected a film so sweet and human to come from the king of weird shit, David Lynch. But that's exactly what The Straight Story is. It's the true story of a man who went to insane lengths to see his brother after a health scare. Alvin Straight drove a riding mower from Iowa to Wisconsin, and touched the lives of everyone he encountered along the way. David Lynch puts his self-indulgence aside to direct this biopic that perfectly reflects the enduring power of the human spirit.
Richard Farnsworth plays Alvin to perfection. At the time, Farnsworth had been diagnosed with bone cancer and was terminally ill. He took this part out of admiration of Alvin's resolve, and you can feel the personal attachment the entire time. Farnsworth knew he was dying and I think this revelation made his performance even better. Regrettably, Farnsworth ended his own life a year after the film came out, leaving this as his final film. And it's a fitting one. It's a film about life and how short it really is.
The Straight Story uses Alvin's journey to teach the audience about the decency inherent in most of us. Everyone Alvin encountered was better off because of it. The runaway went back to her family, the veteran had someone to understand him, and Alvin's brother learned how much Alvin loved him. It's tough not to feel something from this crazy story, and you can take away all sorts of lessons about humanity, dignity, or how powerful a John Deere really is.