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Stand by Me


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Year of release
1986

Directed by
Rob Reiner

Written by
Raynold Gideon
Bruce A. Evans
Stephen King (short story – “The Body”)

Starring
Wil Wheaton
River Phoenix
Corey Feldman
Jerry O'Connell
Kiefer Sutherland


Stand by Me

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Plot – When author Gordie Lachance reads about the death of a friend, he recounts a tale from his childhood. After discovering the possible location of a boy their age who is missing and presumed dead, a close knit group of young kids go on an adventure to try and find the body. The group includes the young Gordie (Wheaton), the group's leader Chris Chambers (Phoenix), the wild Teddy Duchamp (Feldman) and Vern Tessio (O'Connell). Along the way the boys run into a number of obstacles, not the least of which is another group of older boys led by the local bully 'Ace' Merrill (Sutherland).

I think Stand by Me is just a wonderful slice of nostalgia and a terrific coming-of-age flick. A film that beautifully captures the highs and lows of childhood friendships. Told in flashback it is presented in that lovely nostalgic, rose tinted tone that I always find quite endearing.


I think it really is one of the best ever kids films in terms of the performances of the child actors and how realistically they interact with each other. I think that anyone who was a young boy once will be able to recognise themselves in this quartet of characters. When we were kids this is who we were; we did some extremely dumb stuff, we talked about stuff in a crude manner and we seemed to fight with each other more often than not. The dialogue that they share feels so realistic and beautifully observed. And whenever I watch Stand by Me it always sparks little memories of my childhood; stupid discussions I had with my friends, idiotic stunts that we would pull and the fact that no day was complete without at least one fight or argument, which would then be forgotten about within minutes. Oh and that line that closes out the film about never having friends like those you had when you were twelve is such a fantastic line and so very, very true.

Film trivia – Keifer Sutherland later claimed in an interview that at one of the locations they filmed at, a Renaissance Fair was taking place and that many of the film's cast and crew attended and bought some cookies. Unfortunately, the cookies turned out to be pot cookies and two hours later, the crew found Jerry O'Connell high on cookies and crying in the park.
And I think the characters and their disparate problems mean that it will do likewise for many viewers. Many people will be able to see something in the characters or their lives that they can identify with. Gordie is an intelligent and creative kid who has a near non-existent relationship with his father and is dealing with the tragic death of his big brother whom he idolised. Chris Chambers is the leader of the group, a tough kid who also possesses a surprising level of intelligence and sensitivity. He is someone who cannot escape the shadow of his family however and is judged on their past indiscretions, restricting what he is able to do because of the way people see him. Teddy Duchamp is the wild child (which Feldman feels a perfect fit for) who is scarred both physically and mentally as a result of his unstable and abusive father. And lastly you've got Jerry O'Donnell as Vern Tessio; slightly overweight, slightly dim and the frequent butt of the group's jokes.

The kids are all excellent and huge kudos must go to Reiner for being able to mine such performances from such a young cast. They are all great but undoubtedly it is River Phoenix who truly shines above the rest, just highlighting what an immense young talent he was. While his Star Trek character of Wesley Crusher may be the bane of trekkies the world over, and the butt of many a joke, Will Wheaton is terrific as Gordie Lachance, bringing a real heart and sympathy to the character. And Corey Feldman is a lot of the fun as wild, out of control Teddy Duchamp. The four kids are great separately but its as a group that they really come to life, forming a very believable bond and rapport with each other. I can see so much in here that reminds me of moments and incidents from my childhood involving my old friends. All the hopes, dreams, dares, arguments, regrets and memories. Alongside Phoenix the other turn that really stands out is delivered by Keifer Sutherland who is excellent as the menacing and darkly charismatic hood, Ace, who runs the town of Castle Rock.

The film features some beautiful photography of America's country roads. And with the constant sunshine and the hazy nature events unfold in I always get reminded of those summer days that as a kid you felt would never end. And what an awesome soundtrack! One that just transports you right back to the 50s, full of bouncy, toe-tapping tunes like “Lollipop” and “Yakety Yak”. And it's all topped off by Ben E. King's “Stand by Me”, the title of which inspired the name of the film. It's a beautiful, heartfelt song which just works perfectly for the film.

Film trivia – In an attempt to keep in character while off-set, Keifer Sutherland would very often pick on the young quartet of Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O'Connell. And things didn't exactly get much better for the young actors when Phoenix, spurred on by the other boys, covered a car in mud without realising that it actually belonged to Sutherland; only realising later on when Sutherland confronted a scared Phoenix.
There is a lingering sense of sadness and wistfulness throughout the whole film, with the journey representing for the boys the stage of growing up and leaving behind their days of being little carefree kids. The tragic circumstances that would later befall River Phoenix just adds a further level of undeniable poignancy to proceedings. The moment where the fate of his character is revealed and Phoenix just fades away is one that I always find to be extremely moving; a touching finale that should be capable of putting a lump in the throat of anyone who sees it.

When people talk about the best screen translations of Stephen King's stories, the go-to answers typically include The Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile and The Shining. I think it would be a huge mistake however to overlook this one. Based on King's short story, “The Body”, the story was inspired by Stephen King's own childhood experiences, and as such you can really feel the passion and heart with which its told.

Conclusion - Well apparently this isn't exactly a favourite film for a number of people on here, but it certainly is for me. I consider it to just be one of those terrific touchstone films that just takes you back to a certain time in your life, and one that just really has a huge place in my heart. Funny, touching, exciting and terrifically acted I don't see this dropping out of my top 100 anytime soon.