Stand by Me (1986)


A gem of a film that takes on a Stephen King novella and the theme of growing up and friendship and makes it a hugely cool story to watch unfold. The buddy like nature of the four young boys is exceptional and the odd quest they go on becomes a significant time of all their lives and you can’t help but feel part of their hike as it progresses.

A small town called Castle Rock is home to four friends who decide to travel together to just outside the town to a place they believe a body of a 12 year old can be found, in the hope their discovery will help the police and make them heroes. Along the way they learn about each other and themselves.

Rob Reiner directs a wonderfully sweet yet masculine coming of age story and captures the weird connection of young manhood in these friends to great effect. The constant shots of train tracks help illustrate the metaphorical and physical journey the four boys are making. The sequence on the tracks above the river is stunning and foreboding and becomes a giddy moment of outrageous escapism for the lads as they try to carry on. In general the film does a fantastic job in setting the quad of misfits up to face fun testing events. The smaller scale action of fleeing a junkyard to the more gross out humour of landing neck deep in murky waters and finding leeches sucking on their flesh. Through this all though there’s a glorious bond between all their bickering, mum jokes and fighting, especially with Gordie (Wil Wheaton) and Chris (River Phoenix) who are friends even if Gordie’s parents don’t wish them to be. They share the worry of what their future will become and in general it’s fair to say there’s are the biggest example of friendship in the movie, even including the epilogue details of the four men and how Gordie views that hike as a great peak in his childhood.

Acting wise this film is just superb. After a few minutes up in the treehouse where I felt the young performers were a little cheesy and at times obviously acting there suddenly came a time when I stopped realising they were actors and believed them as the four troublesome boys. Phoenix is the one that stood out the most for me and his assuring yet cocksure role is believable all the time, he cares for Gordie and has an emotional depth of not wanting to be viewed as just another Chambers kid with no prospects. Wheaton is the weedy one who conveys the lost unwanted child well and his worries of family and what he enjoys drives his character majorly. The best thing is as desiring to write he finds a captive audience in his friends and finally in the end he’s using the true journey as a source of material for writing. Vern (Jerry O’Connell) is the largest personality in being the butt of jokes and providing the most comedy of failure, he tries hard but you join the others in seeing why he’s picked on the most, just for his infuriating decision to crawl across the train tracks! The snappy scaredycat acting as he flinches again and again with the gun at night is hilarious. Teddy (Corey Feldman) is deranged and has a firecracker behaviour to match, from wanting to dodge the train to trying to start a fight with the junkyard man. It’s all characteristics that come with suitable reasoning and you aren’t ever left to hate him even through his criminally eccentric personality. The four are crammed full with character and backstory and they mesh together in being so out there and the acting from all of them becomes one of the best and coolest qualities of the film.

The soundtrack is another bonus with classic 50’s tunes adding to the developing story and the funky sounds of artists such as The Chordettes and Buddy Holly make the film come alive even more. The choice of narration is good as it sets up the object of storytelling, a significant tool for Gordie and the future he now knows as his present remembering his past with friends he’ll always remember.

I didn’t really like the graveyard dream moment, it didn’t add too much as you could already gather that Gordie’s dad didn’t view him as the favourite. Also actually seeing the story idea of ‘Lard Ass’ was something that detracted from the main story I wanted to see, I would have been more happy just seeing the other threes reaction to his yarn than watching some odd pie eating contest with bad sick effect vomiting. That’s pretty much the only negativity I can find in this mid to late 80’s film though.

An exquisite story of growing pains and friendship, the epilogue is beautiful and sad and the acting is resonating and powerful in its youthful charm. A great adventure like quest of morbid motives but with heartfelt and interesting character results.





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