1991 film directed by David Lynch and starring Richard Farnsworth as Alvin Straight. After hearing that his estranged brother has been disabled by a stroke, Straight decides to go visit his brother in order to repair their relationship (to set things straight, as it were). The only problem is that Alvin is 73, can hardly see, doesn't have a drivers license, and cares for his semi-retarded daughter, played by Sissy Spacek.

Undaunted, Straight trades in his ancient ride-on lawnmower for a '70s-vintage Deere lawn tractor, builds a big trailer for it, and sets off across the state of Wisconsin.

It's a charming, simple story (straightforward, so to speak), and based on the real Alvin Straight. The performances by Farnsworth and (especially) Spacek are understated and fun to watch. Lynch's extreme twistedness (see Blue Velvet) is almost completely absent from the film, except where it lends some wry humor and a touch of grit, both of which drain the syrupiness that any other director would have given it.

The biggest thing I learned from "The Straight Story", David Lynch's white sheep film about a man who rides a lawn mower across Iowa to visit his sick brother, is what I have come to expect from almost every other film I have seen for the last few decades.

There is a low and throbbing tension in the contemporary movie-goer, as he waits for the proverbial other shoe to drop. The problem is, the other shoe dropping is no longer a matter of suspense, as the question is not one of whether there will be a revelation of general corruption, but rather which stock figure will be trotted out to momentarily shock us.

In "The Straight Story", there is a scene where younger people in a bicycle rally ride by Alvin Straight. Strangely enough, they do not turn out to be decadent younger people who verbally assault Straight as a yokel.

In "The Straight Story", there is a scene where Alvin Straight briefly loses control of his lawn mower, and must stop in a small town. Strangely enough, the town is not run by a brutal, jingoistic small town sheriff.

And even more shockingly , in "The Straight Story", Alvin Straight stops in a churchyard and talks to a Catholic Priest who does not turn out to be a pedophile.

In any other movie, the introduction of these situations would necessitate them taking twists into the morbid or "shocking". Which is not just an annoyance on the person watching the movie, because sometimes it is pleasant to watch a movie without having our values shocked every five minutes, but also is a detriment to the movie: it does not always add anything to a story to have a scathing commentary on the hypocrisy of modern society added every time possible. This is after all, a straight story, and to add outside agendas into it would defeat its titular theme.

Which is not to say it is a simple story. As pretty as some of the montage scenes are, if the film was nothing but Alvin Straight riding his lawn mower through cornfields, it would probably not be worth watching. There is actually tension in the story, which is a requirement for a story. It is just all of the tension is native to the story, it is based on the premise set out before us. There is actually a school of thought that Lynch didn't leave behind all of his subversive ways with this film, and that there is actually quite a bit of grim subtext to the film. Which I don't deny, and anyone who watches the film can tell that despite its G Rating, there is some serious issues raised. It is just that the film raises them directly, straightly, without trying to titillate or shock the audience. And that is why I enjoyed this film, because it is one of the few films I have watched that let me develop my response to what I see on my own, without trying to blindside or propagandize me.

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