The Straight Story (1999)

The Straight Story (1999)

An unexpectedly gentle tear-jerker from David Lynch that features a stunning central performance

The Very Best





Maybe the slowest — and sweetest — road movie ever.

What it's about

When the brother he’s not on speaking terms with falls ill, a septuagenarian begins an unusual road trip to make amends before it’s too late.

The take

A family-friendly, Disney-backed movie is not something you’d expect from cinema’s surrealist master, but The Straight Story marks a surprisingly winning stylistic departure for David Lynch. It tells the true story of Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth), an ailing 73-year-old who, upon hearing that his estranged brother has suffered a stroke 240 miles away, decides it's time to patch things up. Unable to drive due to poor eyesight, Alvin modifies a ride-on lawn mower and sets off on the six-week-long journey it will take to reach his brother while traveling just five miles an hour.

Lynch’s film is set at a similarly patient pace: contemplative shots of Mid-Western America’s cornfields fade in and out as Alvin chugs along and experiences profound, fleeting connections with the strangers crossing his path. Alvin refuses to accept any offers of a ride: he wants to finish this pilgrimage on his own terms. Angelo Badalamenti’s elegiac score emphasizes just how much this journey means to Alvin — who, in his last chapter of life, uses it both to reflect on all that's come before and treasure every experience, big or small, that the present offers. The sense of this being a swan song for Alvin is always palpable, making The Straight Story deeply moving down to its bones.

What stands out

Richard Farnsworth’s Oscar-nominated performance, which was his last ever. As Alvin, he grounds the film in no-nonsense authenticity, meaning it never feels overly sentimental (in spite of the Disney affiliation). The sad twinkle that’s ever-present in his eyes is totally convincing — we never doubt for a second that this man really has lived out the experiences he talks about (see: his poignant acting in the bar scene). Farnsworth’s performance is full of emotional gravity even if you don’t know the facts of the production: though terminally ill, he came out of retirement for the role — making it a magnificent cinematic farewell on top of everything else.


Add a comment

What did you think? Who should watch it?




Smoke (1995)

A gorgeous indie gem whose every note is worth inhaling


The Guilty (2018)

A minimalist, razor-sharp thriller that will have you gasping for air.


Flora and Son (2023)

An Irish musical drama that works best when it embraces its feel-good roots


Forgotten Love (2023)

The stunning third take of the classic Polish pre-war melodrama


Do Not Disturb (2023)

A confusing Turkish Netflix comedy-drama with less comedy than hoped for


Overhaul (2023)

A generic racing-action movie with a more distinct personality from its obvious inspirations


Nowhere (2023)

A riveting Spanish Netflix survival thriller brought to life in Anna Castillo’s performance


Reptile (2023)

It’s not as taut as it could be, but this slow-burn thriller has a captivating lead in Benicio del Toro


The Black Book (2023)

A Nigerian revenge thriller seeking justice against corrupt institutions


The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

A star-studded and riveting legal drama with a blockbuster feel.


Curated by humans, not algorithms.

agmtw logo

© 2023 agoodmovietowatch, all rights reserved.