The Straight Story (1999)
If David Lynch were trying to somehow redress all the darkness of his earlier films in one go, then he would make The Straight Story. Like The Elephant Man, it’s straightforward and forgoes the dreams, fantasy sequences and excess of Lost Highway, Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet. It really is a pure thing. Old age is investigated with a tender eye, and the hero, Alvin Straight, is wise and practical.
When he hears his brother has had a stroke, Alvin sets out on an odyssey to travel the three hundred miles to his brother’s house on a lawnmower. His eyes are too poor to get a driver’s license, but we realise the lawnmower has become a choice when he is offered a lift but refuses it. As he says, he wants to do it his own way, which you get the impression he has done his whole life.
Everyone he meets is good-hearted, and the handful of conversations he has on the road each reveal something about his nature, or his past. His hard-won wisdom rubs off on people. He very much reminded me of my grandfather – quiet, creative with mechanical things, a problem solver, stubborn, sometimes abrasive, and carrying memories he struggles to speak of. To me The Straight Story is a lovingly told expression of appreciation and respect for this type of man, made even more poignant in knowing that that generation, who fought in World War 2, are now almost all gone.