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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday July 12, 2020 

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David Lynch's first G-rated feature is based on the true story of 73 year old Alvin Straight's (Richard Farnsworth) 320 mile journey from Iowa to Wisconsin to visit his brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton), who's suffered a stroke. Having not spoken to Lyle in a decade over things that hardly matter, Alvin feels he must reconcile himself with his brother - one way or another. So without a car or a license, he swallows his pride and trades in his old ride-on lawn mower for a new one - a John Deere - and rigs it for the eight week, five mile-per-hour ride from Iowa to Wisconsin. Alvin's daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek) knows to let her father go despite his ailing health, and go he does, ambling down the shoulders of highways in America's heartland towards his private redemption.

"A galactic leap from the bizarre which has seemingly obsessed David Lynch through much of his body of work, The Straight Story is a gentle gem. It reminds me a little of Bruce Beresford's Driving Miss Daisy – not by its subject, but by its mood – unhurried and deliberate – the detail being of supreme importance. From Freddie Francis' long lingering cinematography to Angelo Badalamenti's simple but complex music, this is a study in humanity that beautifully highlights the values of family and belonging. The script is memorable – for its silences; the performances outstanding for their emotional honesty. Richard Farnsworth, whose extraordinary career has spanned 63 years, gives a poignant performance rich in nuance and economy. When we first meet him, we make our assumptions and draw our own conclusions. But the outer layer is not always the whole story. There is much more to this man to whom we are drawn, slowly but surely. When he is asked what's good about being old, he is too worldly wise to answer that. We are left to discover it for ourselves. Structured as a road movie, we dip in and out of the lives of people that Alvin meets along the way; the humour is subtle, the surprises are never ending. A tapestry of human complexity, The Straight Story is an intimate story of dignity and courage. A journey of redemption you are warmly recommended to take."
Louise Keller

"I'm not going to 'shoot a puppy' by being unkind to David Lynch's Straight Story. It's a film of softly glowing self indulgence made palatable - and even important - by the subject matter. Important? Well, yes. Important because it engages us about the details of old age in a way few films have ever done - and it's fact based. It punches home the fact that being old is valuable as part of our lives. We have things to do…. It's very well done; there is circumstantial footage to prove that age allows you to smell the roses. There is riveting slowness in the act of sheer living from moment to moment with nothing more going on than the sight of swaying cornfields. Aaahhh, the value of it all. So why the remark about 'shooting a puppy'? Because Lynch gets a tad too self indulgent in parts and forgets his audience. For someone who can deliver a road film like no other, Lynch scrabbles for story telling devices as we track Alvin Straight down the straights and bends and hills of Iowa as he seeks to re-unite emotionally with his younger (63 year old) brother before they both die. There is a deceptive amount of human drama in the film, deceptive because it's so slow, languid and undramatically presented. But it doesn't need to be sensationalised as it unravels some of Alvin's life - and even these few bits we hear about are enough to make a couple of movies. But that's how all our lives end up: filled with extraordinary things. So for that alone, Straight Story deserves our attention. Beautiful to look at, ever engaging and carrying long lasting impact, it may be a slow film, but in the scheme of life, it's pretty condensed."
Andrew L. Urban

"The title isn't cryptic; Lynch's lonely linear and supremely straight-laced film is a simple story of the strength of family and the endurance of life. You can't imagine a more distant venture from America's auteur obscura, especially considering his last work in the deliberately puzzling Lost Highway (1997). Given there's not a hint of an oxygen-snorting psychopath in The Straight Story, this is still unmistakably Lynch. The pace is more rambling than rapid as it permeates a forgotten bastion of America society; age. True to Lynch, the warm glow of this film hides demons behind an old man's eyes. Alvin's shared stories with kind strangers and farming families along the way are memories of pain and struggle; of difficulties with his children and grandchildren, of nightmares from his time as a sniper in the war, of the vices of growing old and weary. We endure the old man's toils - dreading a visit to the doctor, moving slower, sheltering from the rain, dispensing advice to youths - as if to see what's in store for us. Like every Lynch film, it's a sensual feast. Shot by 81 year old Freddie Francis (who also shot Lynch's The Elephant Man and Dune), the camera spends much time gliding over endless golden cornfields and admiring the denizens of Americana as Alvin makes his goal. The score by Lynch's preferred composer, Angelo Badalamenti, flows emotively with the film's leisurely pace. Yet the film's centrepiece is Richard Farnsworth, who at age seventy-nine came out of a two year retirement to play Alvin Straight. It's a role both Farnsworth and Lynch believed he was born to play, and he deserves the Oscar for his sweetly layered performance. Considering Farnsworth was nominated in 1977 for Comes a Horseman and has been working solidly in tinseltown since 1937, it may be his time. After all, it's the decade for thanking veteran Hollywood actors at The Oscars; James Coburn won for Affliction last year, Gloria Stuart was nominated for Titanic in 97, and Martin Landau won for Ed Wood in 94. But, of course, it's The Oscars; don't be surprised either way."
Shannon J. Harvey

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CAST: Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek, Harry Dean Stanton, Everett McGill, John Farley, Kevin P. Farley, Jane Heitz, Joseph A. Carpenter, Donald Wieggert, Tracey Maloney, Don Flannery, Jennifer Edwards-Hughes, Ed Grennan, Jack Walsh, Gil Pearson

DIRECTOR: David Lynch

PRODUCERS: Neal Edelstein, Alain Sarde, Mary Sweeney

SCRIPT: John Roach & Mary Sweeney


EDITOR: Mary Sweeney

MUSIC: Angelo Badalamenti


RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes



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