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One Stick Breaks Easily But A Bundle Clings Together.
The Straight Story (DVD)
Member Name: Machair1
The Straight Story (DVD)
Advantages: Superb acting, stunning cinematography and a story of hope.
Disadvantages: None at all
Region: Region 2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Channel 4
DVD Release Date: 12 May 2008 (First made 1999)
Run Time: 107 minutes
Available from Amazon for £4.97 with free delivery.
DVD Only Review
This film has touched me in a way I never expected. Directed by David Lynch, famous for strange productions, this film is not along those disturbing lines, and as such cannot be viewed in the same way as his others. It is quite simply the slowest moving story you can imagine that captivates you from beginning to end, and leaves you feeling such warmth. Some of the images and many of the words have carved an imprint in my mind that will remain with me for ever.
Brief Outline Of The Story
Put quite simply the story is about one central character, Alvin Straight, played by the late Richard Farnsworth. He is an elderly frail World War Two veteran, who lives a simple life in the Iowa countryside with one of his daughters Rose. One autumn day he gets news of his brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton) who has sadly suffered a stroke. Not having spoken in over a decade after a serious argument, Alvin is shaken by the news, and decides he must make the journey to see him in Wisconsin some five hundred miles away. He has no driving license due to failing eyesight, and the only method he can think of to get there is to use his sit on lawn mower. So armed with enough gas, sausages and supplies to last the six week trip he sets off on his lawn mower which he uses to pull a trailer - his bedroom for the journey. Of course this machine fails quickly, but determined not to be beaten he borrows another from Tom a local dealer, and so soon he sets off into the autumn unknown on a 66' John Deere riding lawn mower. As the leaves turn from green to russet, and shafts of light illuminate vast fields of corn bathing them in golden blankets the journey begins.
The snail like pace of this film is something I will never forget. Neither will I lose sight of the fact that this is a true story that actually happened. Furthermore the actor Richard Farnsworth was suffering from cancer during the film, and was actually in severe pain from the disease at the time of production in 1999. In 2000 he took his own life.
The acting in this film is utterly outstanding, and I am sure this is due in part to the way that the actor was himself in similar circumstances. Not only is the film shot entirely in the autumn, but the fading sunlight and the approaching winter and year closure, are to me symbolic of the way that Alvin too is approaching the end of his life. Within this feeling comes the need to make things right with people and with family, and to achieve something. Making this long road trip in such a precarious vehicle is important to Alvin. It marks commitment and dedication, and as the long road stretches out in front of him nothing matters more to him than being able to get there before it is too late. He wants to sit with Lyle one last time and watch the stars like they used to as young boys.
There are many empty silences in the film and thought provoking moments. Stunning cinematography fills the space where words would otherwise clutter. Scenes fade and emerge like chapters in a book flowing gently from one to the next. You would think this would be depressing but it is anything but. Scattered along the journey are events and chance meetings with other folk, who add their little piece to the jigsaw allowing Alvin to empty his heart and paint his canvas. I think the memory which will stay in my mind for ever was his reference to family. Talking to a pregnant young girl by his campfire, who he met on the run from her folks, he tells her that one stick breaks easily but tie a bundle together and they are impossible to snap. I love that image and it sets the scene for the journey.
There is a good performance in the film by Alvin's daughter Rose played by Sissy Spacek. Back in Iowa and living a country existence she adds something to the film in her portrayal of a woman manning the fort.
The music is hauntingly beautiful throughout the film and has compelled me to purchase it. It blends beautifully with the countryside images and the cascading leaves and is a delight to listen to.
There are no extras or scene selections at all on this DVD except for a theatrical trailer. This was at the request of David Lynch to facilitate the flow of the film. You simply don't enjoy the passage of the film or appreciate its meaning when you watch clips. It is designed to make you feel as if you have lived through the autumn from beginning to end, and seen all the leaves float off the trees one by one.
This is an uplifting film which rejoices and celebrates life. It marries together old age with hope, and there is still fire in Alvin's eyes as he battles on through miles of lonely deserted roads, some as old and wrinkled as his weathered face. There is excitement too as traffic surrounds the lawnmower in areas of population, and wakes the driver from his previous meditative journey. Hills too present challenges -down slopes more than up, but one thing is for sure you will complete the journey as if you have been sitting right up there next to Alvin. I feel like I know every line on his face and every thought in his mind. I will never see autumn in the same light again, because now as the leaves are beginning to turn red and the last rays of summer sun are fading, I see the image of Alvin illuminated against the backdrop of the golden cornfields. A true masterpiece.
Summary: I adore this film