ScreeningNotes’s review published on Letterboxd:
"The worst part of being old is remembering when you was young."
Alvin Straight goes to the doctor, and the doc doesn't say he's going to die, at least not in so many words, but he says there will be consequences if he doesn't change his lifestyle. Pretty sure the changes he had in mind didn't include driving a lawn mower a hundred miles from Iowa to Wisconsin to see his ailing estranged brother, but you know, sometimes you say one thing and people hear another.
And listen, I'm 31 years old, I'm not gonna pretend to be able to talk to y'all about aging, but if I heard that my sister had a stroke and all I had was a lawn mower, you can bet your ass I'd be driving it across the country to see her. Family is what keeps us from breaking, whether it's a family by blood or by bond; we're just a stick, but together a family is a bundle, maybe not unbreakable but stronger.
You can draw a line straight through David Lynch's filmography from Eraserhead to The Straight Story, and you can watch family transform from a source of abject horror to a source of interconnectivity, of warmth and hope and life. Henry Spencer and his fear of his own newborn child morphs into Alvin Straight and his fond memories of a life gone by, of his many children and grandchildren. Fatherhood is a source of weakness and anxiety for Lynch in his 20's and 30's; in his 50's, it's a source of support, of reinforcement, of strength.
Likewise, you can also draw a line straight through his filmography from Blue Velvet to The Straight Story. Behind a white picket fence, Jeffrey Beaumont's father has a stroke and falls over while watering the lawn, unable to get up. The camera dives down below the grass to reveal the writhing masses just beneath this carefully groomed facade, the repressed, unthinkable truth of the American Dream.
In The Straight Story, Blue Velvet's infamous opening sequence finds itself reversed, inverted, from ideological indictment to opportunity for reconnection, from cynicism to humanism. Alvin Straight also falls down and can't get up while the camera lingers on his lawn, but for him these symbols of Americana are no longer irredeemable.
If the lawn is Lynch's ultimate symbol of America, then of course Lynch would choose to tell a story about a man driving a lawn mower across state lines. Alvin is taking his American Dream with him; there might be dirt and grime beneath the surface, but there's also a unity, a sense of togetherness and community.
The Straight Story is all about Alvin pulling his lawn mower to the side of the road and saying hi to a group of cyclists as they pass. It's all about sitting in a bar and sharing war stories with someone you just met. It's about the simple pleasure of lying out in a field at night and staring up at the stars, wondering at your small place in the universe, thinking that maybe a hundred miles isn't so far to go to see your brother.
"You drive that thing all the way out here to see me?"
This was my 2500th film! Here's to 2500 more! Love you all; you are my family, you keep me strong.