Can you believe it’s June already? The sun was shining in London today and it felt like summer was fast approaching. In honour of the summery weather, this week’s throwback is to a film about summer, friendship, growing up, death and life and…I think I may already be tearing up. This week folks, we revisit the classic that is Stand By Me.
Based on a Stephen King novella, The Body, Stand By Me is a film by Rob Reiner, starring four young actors (River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell and Corey Feldman) and one epic quest. Gordie (Wheaton) is recovering from the death of his older brother, Denny, the only member of his family that seemed to understand Gordie. His best friends are Chris Chambers (Phoenix), who comes from a family of criminals and delinquents and suffers the consequences of his family’s reputation; Teddy Duchamp whose war veteran and unstable father has made him both violent and jumpy, permanently scarred after his father burned his ear and Vern (O’Connell), who seems younger than the others in attitude and is timid, easily scared and often bullied.
Vern overhears his brother talking about a local boy, Ray, who was struck by a train. There has been difficulty locating the body and these four friends decide to embark on a walking and camping trip along the rail tracks to find Ray’s body and become heroes. They set off together, lying to their parents about where they are headed and encounter various adventures, truths and fears on the way and coming back a little sadder, a little wiser and a little older, a part of their childhood gone.
Stand By Me is one of my all time favourite films and never fails to make me cry. There is something about the friendship between those four boys; their sad tales and distant families (except for maybe Vern, he seems to be doing ok) and, as the closing lines spoken by ‘The Writer’ say: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” Those friendships you have at that age, somewhere between a little kid and a teenager, are special. They help you make that leap from one state of being to the other, you have unquestioning loyalty and you’re too young to care about what’s cool. Kids are often instinctively protective and these boys are all hiding away from something, seeking refuge in others who understand implicitly why they need to hide.
I’m lucky; my best friend when I was 12 is still my best friend. However, you do get the sense watching Stand By Me that this friendship is fragile and therefore even more precious. These are four very different boys, brought together by circumstance and sensibility, but always somehow destined to go different ways in life. Every time I watch it I’m reminded of how much kids notice and understand and of how important true friends are. A truly great friend looms large in your life, whether they remain an active part of it or not.
Much gets said about Phoenix’s performance in the film but all four boys do an amazing job, particularly Wheaton who is the emotional centre of the story. Some of my favourite moments are when it’s just the four of them sitting around talking about the sort of nonsense kids talk about.
For me, one of the best things about Stand By Me is that is grows with me. The older I get, the more it means, the more bitter sweet the story and the better I understand it. If you haven’t seen it yet, treat yourself and watch it. I swear you won’t regret it.