This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Sush’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Stand by Me is, in my opinion, the greatest coming of age movie ever made. It embodies so much of what makes a coming of age story special; it has conflict, opposition, comradery, and love. It’s a timeless adventure where four boys become teenagers and even, to some extent, adults. It’s a film that is grounded and honest. It provides moral lessons and imparts upon its viewers a loss of innocence. Ultimately it provides us nostalgia for our childhoods and reminds us of the existential knowledge that comes with growing up.
The film follows four boys on a journey to find the dead body of a fellow kid their age. That’s the basic premise behind Stand by Me. Along the way we learn the intricacies of these boys lives. What their home life is like, what their town is like, and what they themselves are like. We learn that Gordie Lachance (Will Wheaton) constantly lives in his brothers shadow, even more so after his brother died. Chris Chambers comes from an impoverished family who’s patriarchal figure is an abuser. Teddy Duchamp is the son of a army veteran who stormed the beaches of Normandy and unfortunately came back with PTSD, where Teddy was often the victim of his father’s episodes. And Vern Tessio, well he comes from what was probably considered at the time to be helicopter parents, a good kid who’s only real problem was his try-hard greaser brother. Nonetheless, each of these individuals came from a troubled family in one way or another. Each story has an affect on how these kids grow up and where they end up.
Throughout the film we learn more and more about their lives. Lachance’s brother was a kind soul who cared about Gordie more than his own parents did and that’s despite him being a star football player for the high- school. So when his brother dies, Gordie who already lived in his shadow in the eyes of his parents was now, as Gordie puts it, a ghost child. Gordie is the main character of the film so we get more backstory to him but we still learn about the others. Chris Chambers, the second in the group, comes from a disrespected family because of their monetary status and his father’s abuse. According to the town Chris is just, “another low-life Chambers kid.” Even to the point that a local teacher would use his low-standing status in the town to benefit herself. This is discovered in the amazing campfire scene where Gordie and Chris are keeping watch and Chris expresses himself quite emotionally to Gordie. This also shows their level of friendship. And similar moments are repeated throughout the film that strengthen that bond they have. Unfortunately we don’t learn much about Vern apart from the few things the boys joke around about in the film. However, we do get to learn about Teddy in what I think is a powerful scene. When the gang narrowly escapes the junkyard dog and his owner, the owner begins to berate Teddy about his loony dad and how he’s in the loony bin. Teddy doesn’t take too kindly to this, to the point of threatening the junk man’s life, “I’ll rip off your head and shit down your throat!” Throughout the altercation Teddy can’t stop reminding the man, and himself, that his father stormed the beaches of Normandy. In teddy’s eyes his dad is a war hero. A damaged and broken man but nonetheless a war hero. And Teddy has personified this about his father into his own personality.
These boys are, in fact, quite broken. Some will heal and some will not. And that’s the reality of life. We all grow up with friend groups, sometimes they change, other times they grow together, some fade completely. Each and every one of us experiences a group of friends like the one in Stand By Me when we’re young. But at some point that group of friends changes and that’s just the reality of life. Whenever I watch this film I am reminded of those childhood friends that I had who are now off doing their own things. Some have been to jail others have already gotten married and had kids, and I’m only 24 years old. Stand by Me brings me back to my childhood and reminds me of the good times. I often get emotional when I watch this film because it does this to me. Because it takes me back in time.
Stand by Me is an exceptional film. It’s well directed by Rob Reiner. The young actors are beyond amazing. All four of them, Will Wheaton, River Phoenix (RIP), Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell. They’re what drive this film. Their performances are grounded and their friendship bleeds on screen. The chemistry between the four actors is so powerful. The music, costumes, cinematography, and locations all help bring you back to the 1950s. And despite it being an 80s film set in the 50s, this story is absolutely timeless. For me, this film is one of the things that brought me out of the age of innocence and introduced me to the realities of life. It will forever be special to me.