More often than we want to admit the truths we learn from the past can devastate us, yet help lead us on the right path for our future. Currently on Netflix, in the 2015 film ‘The World Made Straight’, based off the 2006 novel by Ron Rash, the past is shown as cold, and heartbreaking, while the brightness of tomorrow lays hidden in the sombre mournfulness of today. Shane Danielsen’s adapted screenplay tells the story of lost souls, seventeen year old Travis Shelton, and disgraced schoolteacher Leonard Shuler as they struggle to make it in a world that seemingly left them behind. Based in the western Appalachian mountains of North Carolina Travis, a high school dropout finds himself battered and disparaged by his abusive jobless father. Reeling from personal loss Leonard, now a small time drug dealer, wastes away in a trailer with journals from the Civil War. When the two forlorn men connect over the horrific Civil War massacre that haunts the small town, they both start to find reasons to live.
When viewed, so much in The World Made Straight takes your breath away. From the snowy highland scenery, to the stirring performances, to the moving music, director David Burris delivers an emotional and captivating film with a world you won’t forget. Noah Wyle, known from “ER” and “Falling Skies”, is riveting as Leonard. His gruff voice and slow demure convinces you of an intelligent and caring man who hurts beneath his tough outer shell. Jermey Irvine brings the needed ability to portray the lost Travis, searching for a path, and a father. Connecting over the Civil War Massacre Travis learns the fat of his kin, and what family really means. The contemptible marijuana farmer Carlton with a voice of an angel, played terrifyingly by Steve Earle, is so evil and backwoods, viewers will hate him, and fear him. The surprise performance of the film is delivered by Minka Kelly. Minka goes all out showing she is more than just a pretty face as she brings the drug addicted Dena to life. More than half the film Minka Kelly is battered with her face looking ghastly. She brings reality to Dena, the sorrow and the struggle of a drug addict displayed honestly and unvarnished.
The narrating of civil war journals over several scenes helps bring sentiment to the film. The harsh winter weather helps foreshadow the bleakness of the characters and the road they are on. The past illuminates the present. Every action is shown to have a reaction, even the ones with good intentions. Leonard eloquently explains violence beguiles violence like a sickness. Ron Rash should be proud of this presentation of his novel. Watching this film is like experiencing the novel itself. Finishing the film is as if you have lived through a classic book that you know someday, when your heart can handle it, you will tackle it again. ‘The World Made Straight’ is truly a work of cinematic art. Just be sure when viewing this film, you are ready for real storytelling that will effect your emotions.