On Sunday evening of last week, I found myself completely immersed in this film. What is there not to like? Friendship, loyalty, struggle, bonding, trust, uncertainty, all the issues that a twelve year old boy struggles with. Stand By Me is one of those films that captures the heart of adolescence. Consider the closing (silent) line of the film, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” This is a personal film review for me, as well as I imagine it could be a personal experience for anyone who has seen this film. Director Rob Reiner captures the heart and spirit of boyhood like no other film made. Being a boy before you transfigure into your teens is quite subtle. This is the time when you are discovering women, growing older, approaching the world with a more confident taste for things not yet accessible. This is primarily what the film is exploring, and it is done with colorful fashion and expectation.
Set in a wooded town in Oregon in the 1950’s, four friends set out on a journey to find the body of a missing kid. Wanting a taste of being famous, they set out on a two day journey through a tangle of woods and railroad tracks; they are hoping to make the grim discovery of a missing body who is presumed missing by the local authorities, but the boys know he is already dead. While their odyssey unfolds, so does their characters. When night approaches, they regale themselves with small confessions, tall tales, smoke cigarettes, and sleep next to campfire smells and strange sounds in the woods. When the going gets tough and they are put to the test, they strengthen the know of their friendship through support and loyalty, which plays an enormous role throughout the film. The spirit of a child does not die slowly in this movie; it is not supposed to; like life itself, it must be felt it can be real. One of the main characters in the film, Gordy LaChance, has been dealing with a dark dilemma in his life; it is the loss of his older brother who died in a car accident a year earlier. His parents have grown distant and cold towards him and he is forced to rely on the humor and devotion of his other three friends. As it turns out, Gordy is the most innovative of the three, and possess an amazing talent for writing and storytelling which will present a wonderful climax at the end of the film. The other three characters are charming in their own ways as well.
Gordy’s best friend, Chris Chambers is the most audacious and determined of the bunch. He is the leader because of his loyalty to the gang and his remarkable talent for settling disputes and keeping the guys focused on each other. Teddy and Vern are the other two friends who are a bit more distant in bond than Chris and Gordy. Teddy is a bit of a rebel and less smart about his choices; Vern is more shy and recluse, but, with a little conviction, he can be your most loyal admirer. As these characters of personality demonstrate, the film becomes a center of ‘adult’ attention in your own life. We all have had friends like this in our life at one time or another. As we grow older and pursue more vast interests, these friends fall by the wayside of your life, sometimes never resurfacing, except for the memories that are so candid. The film climaxes with the departure of being adolescent to becoming a reluctant, but necessary adult. However, this movie does not forget to insert local bullies who, on occasion, harass the gang, especially Chris and Gordy, just like so many other kids growing up in pre-teenage years. The film is a unordinary demonstration of the challenges of departing ways with old friends and paving a new road for your life’s destiny. The bonds that are made with the boys in this film is also a lesson for adults in later life; consequently, the film brushes, slightly, against the ego-watching adults who have already, in many instances in their lives, forgotten what loyalty and friendship truly mean. This movie is a shining reminder of that principle.
While the movie is set in a remote and mountainous town out in the west, the lessons displayed and explored are timeless. The passion and eagerness that is youth is racing towards getting older; when we finally arrive and have all grown up, we visit our innocence through memory and long to relive those fruitful episodes of our careless existence as curious children. Stand By Me is a stand on life. It gives the viewer another final taste of yesteryear. It breaks down the monotony of being an adult; it preserves the gift of youth and exposes the boredom of a grownup world. Despite these mishaps, the film captures the resounding hope of children transfiguring into their purpose, whether that means success or not. It is also a testament that life can be unkind and that the race is a long one, especially for those who are unprepared to accept consequences. In the final result, one issue is unavoidable, growing up.