The Straight Story (1999)


When someone mentions the work of David Lynch, you probably first think of his works such as Twin Peaks (1990-91), Lost Highway (1997) or even Eraserhead (1977), but not TheStraight Story. Namely, the absence of Lynch’s association with this title is not surprising, considering that it is a completely atypical achievement in relation to his extremely recognizable style. It is not clear how Lynch decided to adapt the story based on a true event, although it cannot be said that it is completely atypical for him, if we take into account his film The Elaphant Man (1980), which also dealt with real people. In any case, this is a film that differs greatly from the recognizable work of David Lynch. Of course, all this does not mean that this work is in any way worse than any other David film, on the contrary, it is a great film. Neither better nor worse, but simply different.

As you may have already concluded from the introduction, The Straight Story is based on the true story of Elvin Straight, who travels 390 kilometers in an extremely unusual way to visit his sick brother. Regarding the title of the film, it is interesting to mention that given the meaning of Elvin’s last name Straight (straight, honest, fair), the film is probably literally translated as True Story (instead of, for example, The Story of Straight), obviously relying only on information from titles. However, the translation of the title is quite adequate.

Elvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) is an advanced war veteran who lives with his daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek). At the beginning of the film, we learn that Elvin is in a long-running quarrel with his brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton). However, after learning that Lyle had a heart attack, Elvin immediately decides to visit him, traveling on a lawn mower. Admittedly, it is a mower that is the size of a smaller tractor, but it is still a mower with an average speed of 8.0 km / h, in front of a road of 390 kilometers. You’re probably wondering where Elvin got this crazy idea from, when there are simpler ways to travel?

Namely, Elvin’s motor mower is the only “means of transport” with which he is able to drive without a driver’s license. Elvin is a man of firm principles, one would say stubborn, who likes to have control over his actions and thanks to that, he does not like to be driven by anyone else, and accordingly does not use a bus or any other means of transport that excludes his control of the vehicle. Having provided himself with food and everything he thought he would need on this trip, Elvin embarks on his great adventure.

In The Straight Story, you will not see Lynch’s elements of twisted dreams and incomprehensible symbolism, but the warmth of everyday human relationships, which encourages them to engage in unusual emotional actions. The main emphasis is on simple, but very concise dialogues, which have great power thanks to the superior characterization of the characters. The power of simplicity mentioned in this film is perhaps best illustrated by a scene in which Elvin and Rousse, with minimal words, enjoy watching the storm. It is interesting to mention that despite this “simplification”, Lynch called this film his most experimental work, which may sound absurd at first glance, but quite understandable when you consider his entire film work.

However, it is not completely excluded that Lynch wanted to say something more than just a narrative with this story, and it is completely certain that someone else tried to prove it, but we definitely could not figure it out, nor did we try. One thing is for sure, Elvin also has his dark side, which the viewer can conclude only through crumbs of information, which spill through the sparse segments of Elvin’s stories and are just there to tickle the imagination. Whether that is enough to develop an alternative theory about this film, just because it is hard to believe in Lynch’s simplicity without hidden intentions, judge for yourself.

The acting in the film is certainly another gear that makes the whole mechanism of The Straight Story work perfectly harmoniously. Richard Farnsworth was also nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Elvin, which eluded him in favor of Kevin Spacey for the film American Beauty (1999). Despite Farnsworth’s great performance in this film, it must be admitted that he was an outsider in the Oscar race. We would also like to mention the great role of Sisi Spacek, who perfectly portrayed the character of the easily mentally retarded Rose. We should not forget any of Lynch’s favorite episodes, Harry Dean Stanton, in the role of Elvin’s brother Lyle, whose role, unfortunately, is not much to say, considering that his participation in this film is really minimal.