Stand by Me

Stand by Me ★★★★½

Between Stand by Me and Misery, Rob Reiner clearly has a knack for excellent Stephen King adaptations.

For how much this story is focused on childhood, it was a great surprise to see how gritty and even harsh it was in establishing its environments and characters. All of these kids are going through difficult challenges in their lives, and have very few others to rely on even when certain people should be the most reliable. This makes their friendship not just a privilege for them, but in some ways a necessity. Whether or not they end up sticking together throughout their entire lives, the experiences they have no doubt shaped them for the better, whether it’s by inspiring them for the future or simply giving them a way to get through a difficult present. This is particularly true for Gordie and Chris, the clear highlights of the movie. The acting from these two is incredible, especially the tragically late River Phoenix. The harshness also makes things like the overtly terrible bullies feel a bit more natural, because the world around them fits the kind of people they are.

Yet there’s an unrelenting sentimentality to it as well; it would have been so easy to make these kids too rough-edged and snarky to be relatable, but there’s never a moment where you doubt they have legitimate love for one another (particularly when contrasting them to the “relationships” the bullies have with each other). At no point does it feel like the film is holding back out of fear getting too schmaltzy, and even when some lines and even one or two performances (particularly Jerry O’Connell) are off, it barely makes a dent. The ending is a tad too understated in certain reveals, but still manages to hit hard for the impact this whole adventure had on Gordie even decades later, as well as showing him not making the mistakes his father did.

Wonderfully adapting such an accessible story, Stand by Me is an excellent coming-of-age story with amazing acting, emotionally-charged imagery, and all the heart, humanity, and raw honesty that you could hope for.

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