The Straight Story is a 1999 film directed by David Lynch. It is based on the true story of Alvin Straight's journey across Iowa and Wisconsin on a lawnmower. The film was edited and produced by Mary Sweeney, Lynch's longtime partner and co-worker. She co-wrote the script with John E. Roach.
Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) is an elderly World War II veteran who lives with his daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek), a kind woman with a mental disability. When he hears that his estranged brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton) has suffered a stroke, he makes up his mind to go visit him and hopefully make amends before he dies. But because Alvin's legs and eyes are too impaired for him to receive a driving license, he hitches a trailer to his recently purchased thirty year-old John Deere Lawn tractor and sets off on the 240-mile journey from Laurens, Iowa to Mount Zion, Wisconsin.
The film follows the story of Alvin's six-week journey across rural America, the people he meets, his impact on their lives, and theirs on his. It has been called a modern odyssey of a man dealing with his own mortality and mistakes and the lasting bonds of family.
The Straight Story begins with an impressive shot of farmland in the town in which Alvin resides. A friend of Alvin attends the house and encounters Alvin lying on the floor. Dorothy panics, picks up the telephone and in her state of confusion wonders what the number for 9-1-1 is. Alvin's daughter Rose then comes upon the scene, wonders what the yelling is all about and is alarmed to see Alvin on the floor. Dorothy feels that something should be done as 'we have a stricken man here.' Alvin tries to placate his daughter's feelings of panic by telling her that he 'just needs a bit of help getting up, honey,'
Rose proves to be an attentive and concerned daughter. She ensures that her father sees a doctor, much to Alvin's reluctance. The doctor advises Alvin that he will have to use a walker. Back at home with his daughter, Alvin tells Rose that the doctor told him that he is going to live to be 100. Rose then receives a telephone call and she tells Alvin that Alvin's brother has had a stroke.
Alvin embarks upon his journey. He travels slowly and wears a determined look on his face. During his journey, a lorry passes him. The driver honks the horn and Alvin's hat blows away, which Alvin stops to retrieve. Alvin experiences difficulty starting the motor and flags down a passing bus. Alvin sheepishly explains to the driver that he is 'having a bit of engine trouble.' The driver is very kind to Alvin and gives him a lift. Alvin arranges for his mower to be transported on a flatbed truck in order for it to be repaired. He goes to John Deere where he speaks to someone named Tom who describes Alvin as being a smart man, 'until now.' Alvin explains that he only has $325 and tells Tom that sometimes one can find out more about the machines if one knows who owns it. Tom tells Alvin that he was the previous owner of the machine.
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