By Patrick Brady
Rob Reiner’s classic 1986 film, “Stand by Me,” is one of the greatest coming-of-age films ever made.
The film stars Wil Wheaton as Gordie, a boy who is dealing with the loss of his older brother, and River Phoenix as Chris, a boy who is mistreated by his father.
Additionally, the film features actors such as Corey Feldman as Teddy Duchamp, Jerry O’Connell as Vern Tessio, and Kiefer Sutherland as Ace Merrill.
Vern overhears his older brother and his brother’s friend talking about a boy’s dead body they found on the railroad tracks. He tells his friends – Gordie, Chris, and Teddy – about the discovery, and they decide to venture out of town in order to find the body. But Gordie is hesitant at first, since his brother just died, and the thought of seeing the body disturbs him.
Each boy deals with their own traumatic experiences in the film and are far from perfect. As they travel farther and farther from town, they begin to realize things they didn’t know about each other – for better or worse. They are being hunted down by Chris’ brother, Ace, and his friends who have learned about the motive behind their disappearance.
“Stand by Me” is perfectly cast – both the teenagers and kids act realistically and never lack emotion. Even the kids from “Stranger Things” can’t compete with Phoenix and Wheaton’s acting ability.
Despite the exceptional writing, the film was snagged from receiving an Academy Award for best screenplay.
Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans – the screenwriters of the film – produced the most realistic and natural dialogue I have ever heard in any movie. And the cast’s execution of it was flawless.
Whether it’d be from Chris opening up to Gordie about his troubled past, to the four boys joking with each other in their treehouse at the beginning of the film, it is difficult to tell if you’re watching a movie or not.
Above all else, the chemistry among the four main characters succeeds on all different levels. For this reason, the film never lacks heart, even in the darkest of scenes.
While the movie does deal with some uncomfortable subject material, it sprinkles humor in too. For instance, there is a scene in which the four boys talk around a campfire while hilarious dialogue ensues. The first time I watched the film, the scene had me in stitches.
The soundtrack of the film is superb as well. And while it could be considered slow by present-day standards, it helps to set the somber tone.
Although the soundtrack and screenplay of the film are astounding, there was one aspect film that stood above all else – the cinematography. Whether the scene was shot from a distance or up-close, the backdrop of the four main boys was beautiful.
Even though the story in which the film is based off of was set in Maine, “Stand by Me” was filmed in Brownsville, Oregon. Therefore, the background is often rolling green hills covered with blossoming trees – with the occasional river.
While the landscape can be distracting at times, it also progresses the plot forward, since nature is often associated with innocence, and the driving theme of the film is loss of innocence.
The ending can be off-putting for some, but it certainly matches the underlying tone of the film. As a society of filmgoers, we have grown used to happy endings, but the film pushes us to accept the fact we’re all human and life isn’t a fairy tale. Even though it came out in 1986, the film was well ahead of its time, since it dared to explore character-based territory many films hadn’t ventured into before.
“Stand by Me” shows the loss of innocence in adolescence – and even though it might be terrifying, we all experience it sooner or later.
The film explores the struggles of growing up through loss and friendship.