The Straight Story
Alvin Straight is elderly widowed man in poor health, living in Iowa. After he learns that his brother, whom he hasn’t spoken to for ten years, is ill, he takes the decision to visit him. There is a small obstacle in the way: his brother lives in Wisconsin, 600 km away, and Alvin wishes to travel on his own. Not possessing a driving license, he decides to hit the road on a small garden tractor, reaching a maximum speed of 5 miles/hour. Along the way he meets a diverse mix of people who share their stories and opinions. Based on a true story and directed by David Lynch, Alvin Straight is a small road movie about forgivness and discovering the true values in life.
Walt Kowalski is a Korean War veteran. His neighbourhood in a Detroit suburb is slowly being occupied by immigrants of different ethnicities, which irritates him, just like many other changes in his grumpy, lonely life. An unusual friendship with a teenaged girl and her extended family from the Detroit Hmong community opens him to the unknown and paves the way towards a surprising improvement in the lives of his newly-formed friends.
Maggie is in her fifties, widowed, dividing her spare time between bridge sessions at the local gossip’s club and the hospital where her little grandson is suffering from a serious illness. The hospital bills have been rising without any major improvements in her grandson, and this keeps her and her son’s family knotted in frustration. Desperate to earn money quickly to pay for a promising new treatment for her grandson, Maggie decides to take a job which she did not even know existed a few weeks earlier, and which would have shamed her if she had known of it, or even thought of it. The experience she goes through brings her, to her great surprise, more than just the money she needs.
Fúsi – an obese, quiet, and gentle quadragenarian – living a stereotypical life, still with his mother, without any sign of a change. Working in the baggage department at the airport, but never traveling by plane. Suddenly confronted with two new visitors in his life – an 8 year old neighbourhood girl and a temperamental, slightly unstable woman – his life suddenly takes a different direction and discovers fresh momentum.
Fúsi is a somewhat marginal character. While this is in part a personal transformation movie, it is also to be noted that his selfless motives in in the face of life change affect more than just him.
The movie Vera Drake is set in the 1950s in London. None of Vera‘s family members, whom she is looking after devotedly, and none of her neighbours and friends, know her secret. Vera is selflessly helping women who seek her help with unwanted pregnancies. Only after one failed intervention, when a young woman almost dies, does Vera get revealed, and the consequences find her entire family unprepared.
The unshakeable faith of the main character, that she was helping others and this eventually led her to a disaster, is an important moment in the film, leaving the viewer in conflict over whether to sympathize or condemn Vera’s acts.