Stand By Me
By Mal Simons, Blockbuster.co.uk
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
The most important film ever to be made about childhood; Stand By Me stands out as being one of the funniest, emotional and poignant coming of age movies that has ever been made. I know of very few films that come close to touching the sheer brilliance of this classic.
Originally released back in 1986, and directed by Bob Reiner
, the man behind This Is Spinal Tap
, When Harry Met Sally
and A Few Good Men
; Stand By Me is based on a short story by legendary horror writer Stephen King
. At its core, this is a film about childhood, friendship, growing up and growing apart.
The story itself is told in flashback by narrator Gordie LaChange (Richard Dreyfuss
) who is writing down his childhood memories; the film transports us back to Gordie’s childhood and the summer where his life changed forever. A time, before fully discovering girls, where friendship meant everything, and where he and his friends would debate the important things in life:
“Alright, alright, Mickey's a mouse, Donald's a duck, Pluto's a dog, what's Goofy?”
(Star Trek TNG
) stars as the young Gordie, aged 12, a boy mourning the recent death of his older brother Denny (John Cusack
) and resentful of how his parents have treated him as an “invisible boy” since the tragedy. Gordie lives in a small American town in 1959, a town where everyone knows everyone else and interesting things rarely happen. Gordie is part of a close group of friends who gather together daily in the tree house that they have built.
Gordie’s best friend is Chris Chambers (played brilliantly by the late River Phoenix
), a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, one who has been abused by an alcoholic father and dismissed as a thief by everyone due to the antics of his older brother. Chris was recently suspended from school for stealing milk money and Gordie’s father is unhappy with Gordie spending time with him.
“Why can't you have friends like Denny's?”
The two of them are joined by Teddy (Corey Feldman
), whose father is in a mental institution after trying to burn off Teddy’s ear but of whom, Teddy is very proud and protective, stating that he’s an American hero who fought at Omaha. Finishing off the group is Vern Tessio (Jerry O’Connell
), an overweight wimp who is scared of everything but whose heart is in the right place.
When Verne overhears his brother, one of the town bullies, talking about discovering the body of a missing child; he goes and tells his friends. The missing child in question has been missing for a number of days and a massive state-wide search by the authorities is taking place. Hearing about this discovery, and the fact that Verne’s brother is not going to report the find because he was joyriding at the time; the four boys decide to travel out to claim the body and become ‘heroes’ to the townsfolk that continuously compare them to their relatives.
“Come on you guys, let's get moving.”
“Yeah, by the time we get there the kid won't even be dead anymore.”
We join the boys on this journey outside of town to find the corpse, telling jokes and talking about their lives. Along the way, the boys have to overcome various obstacles not least an angry junkyard attendant angry that they have trespassed and the town bullies (led by an especially scary Kiefer Sutherland
) determined to put the kids in their place. By facing these hardships together, the friends learn about the fragility of life, the importance of friendship and through the course of the film, are forced to face up to the reality of their lives and in doing so, come of age.
“It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of our lives like busboys in a restaurant.”
In Stand By Me, director Bob Reiner has created a movie masterpiece that is simply perfect in everyway. A timeless classic about childhood made ever the more poignant due to the early death of one of the film’s great leads, River Phoenix; this is a truly unmissable film that many have tried to equal but none have yet managed to surpass. Add this to your list now.