For all its difference in outlook, like Wild At Heart and Lost Highway it's an unshamed road movie. Rather than carrying the story, though, here the road (literally and figuratively) IS the story: sweeping shots of the road, the headlight view, turning wheels, highways of corn, rivers of rain down the window and even the the dead straight path of the sun in the late afternoon sky reinforce this idea of an inevitable, pre-ordained journey, which Alvin (the old buzzard on the lawnmower) personifies.
With a beautifully framed sense of fatalism, Lynch takes the ostensibly absurd and makes complete sense out of it: tripping from Iowa to Wisconsin on a lawnmower isn't, you might think, the most commonsense thing to do, but in the context it's the right thing to do; it's the inevitable thing to do - and if you analyse it, it's no more pointless than a lifetime spent smoking and contracting emphysema, or for that matter not speaking to your own brother for ten years - both of which Alvin (and half the rest of us) are guilty of anyway.
The characterisations of the supporting cast are incredibly humane and real - in place of Lynch's usual cast of misfits and weirdoes, Alvin encounters a succession of decent, Middle American folk, who do decent things, whilst giving Alvin the intermittent opportunity to share some hoary old pearls of wisdom, and confront one of two of the demons in his past. This aspect could have easily devolved into sordid sentimentality, but Lynch handles it very deftly indeed. The same could have been true of the final scene, but (without giving away too much), it is done with a beautiful lightness of touch, and it left me with that all-too-rare sense of complete satisfaction as the credits rolled. This is an outstanding movie.
What did you think of this review?
It's a miracle that this G-rated Disney film was made by a director whose work is often described as twisted and bizarre. But Lynch is too complex an artist to be labeled, and he brings charm, grace, and kindness to his fact-based telling of The Straight Story--not to mention a serenity rarely found in movies anymore. It's a film of moments--funny, odd, quietly spiritual--and this simple tale of a man, a lawnmower, and rural hospitality becomes a genuine Lynchian odyssey, unlike any film you've seen but as welcoming as a cup of lemon tea with honey. Best of all, it's a fitting tribute to the career of veteran stuntman-actor Farnsworth who, at age 79, plays Alvin Straight to sheer perfection, his face a subtle roadmap to a broad spectrum of emotional destinations. --Jeff Shannon