Stand by Me is one of the three greatest film adaptions of Stephen King novels, up there with Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile. It is one of the great heavyweights of Stephen King adaptions, and yet, couldn’t be more different from either of them. At its heart Stand by Me is a true coming-of-age film celebrating pre-adolescent camaraderie and adventure. Thirty-three years later this Oscar and Golden Globe nominated film still stands strong.
Stand by Me is the 1986 classic directed by Rob Reiner (also well-known for When Harry Met Sally… and A Few Good Men). We are drawn into Stand by Me by the story of four 12-year-old boys towards the end of summer sometime in the 1950s, set in the small fictional town of Castle Rock in Maine and come across information about a boy who had gone missing and set out to find the alleged corpse of the missing boy. On this several-day journey they face their own mortality, introspectively reflect on their past and future, and crudely insult each other. Little more is required of the story to entertain the watcher of this pre-adolescent character study.
While all four of the 12-year-old boys are at the centre of the story, at the truest centre is Gordie (Wil Wheaton – younger; Richard Dreyfuss – older), who had recently experienced the death of his older brother, Dennis (John Cusack), and ongoing parental indifference towards his existence. Throughout the film we are greeted by the older Gordie’s voice (Dreyfuss), who is our narrator that sifts through the emotional backlog of the younger Gordie. Dreyfuss’s voice is a comforting one, presenting an autobiographical telling of his youth. His friends are Chris (River Phoenix), the smoking hardcore bad-ass and bad boy of the group who is really just as sensitive as every other 12-year-old; Vern (Jerry O’Connell), the overly enthusiastic and rather dim-witted overweight boy; Teddy (Corey Feldman), whose ear was nearly burnt when his abusive father held it close to a stove.
Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of this movie is intrinsic to all movies with a child cast – the acting is often poor. It’s unmistakable and unavoidable. For some it’s too grating no matter how well put together the film actually is, but for those who can bare it, they need to get past it for the 1hr 29min runtime.
In spite of this, the movie is a greatly satisfying one, although, is by no means a masterpiece or truly as fulfilling as Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile. It is by all means pleasant, almost every shot is exactly what you’d expect to see from an all-white area of 1950s America. From the largely untouched wilderness whose only sign of industrialisation is the railway tracks our protagonists follow, to the quaint independent stores, to the handgun Chris stole off his father. It with this that almost every shot is perfect. The plot is one that is basic but pays off, the writing similarly so. It’s rocky at the beginning but does not set the tone for the rest of the film, as it progressively increases in quality. Yet, it is a classic for its genre.