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"The Straight Story" chronicles a trip made by 73-year-old Alvin Straight from Laurens, Iowa, to Mt. Zion, Wis., in 1994 while riding a lawn mower. The man undertook his strange journey to mend his relationship with his ill, estranged, 75-year-old brother Lyle.Written by
Richard Farnsworth was terminally ill with bone cancer during the shooting of the film, which had caused the paralysis of his legs as shown in the film. He actually took the role out of admiration for Alvin Straight, and astonished his co-workers with his tenacity during production. Because of the pain of his disease, Farnsworth committed suicide the following year, at the age of 80. See more »
Alvin is shown crossing the Mississippi River at Lansing heading westward (into Iowa), instead of eastward into Wisconsin. See more »
Perhaps more than many films, this one is not for everyone. For some folks the idea of slowing down, reflecting and allowing things to happen in their own time is a good description of their personal hell. For others an approach like this speaks to some deep part of themselves they know exists, some part they long for contact with.
I suppose it's a function of where I am in my own life these days, but I count myself in the camp of the latter group. I found the meditative pace of this film almost hypnotic, gently guiding me into some realm almost mythological. This is indeed a journey story, a rich portrayal of the distance many of us must travel if we are to come full circle at the end of our days.
Much as been written of Mr Farnsworth's presentation of Alvin Straight, though I'm not sure there are words to express the exquisite balance of bemused sadness and wise innocence he conjured for us. Knowing now that he was indeed coming to terms with his own mortality as he sat on that tractor seat makes me wish I had had the opportunity to spend time with him before his departure. I hope he had a small glimmer of the satisfaction and truth he had brought to so many people, not just for "acting" but for sharing his absolute humanity with such brutal honesty.
Given the realities of production economics, I'm not sure full credit has been given Mr Lynch for the courage he showed in allowing the story to develop so slowly. An outsider to film production, I nonetheless understand there are few areas of modern life where the expression "time is money" is so accurately descriptive. Going deep into our hearts is not an adventure that can be rushed, and to his credit Mr Lynch seems to have understood that he was not simply telling a story--he was inviting his viewers to spend some time with their own mortality. No simple task, that.
If you'd like to experience the power of film to take introduce you to some precious part of yourself, you could do worse than spending a couple of hours with The Straight Story. And then giving yourself some time for the next little while simply listening to its echoes in the small hours of the night.
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