“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
That closing line is the perfect ending for Stand By Me. Directed by Rob Reiner (This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride) and featuring future stars like Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and even Kiefer Sutherland, the story is told by an adult reminiscing about what he eventually realized was a defining moment in his life. It leaves you thinking about similar moments in your life: moments that stick with you, but you can’t put your finger on why until years later, when you realize that they’ve made you into the person that you are.
Based on the short story “The Body” by Stephen King, the story of Stand By Me is a simple story told exceedingly well. The plot is simple: four boys go on a short trip to see a dead body. The real story is in who the boys are and what happens to them. Each of the four boys has a unique and well-developed personality, and good reasons for having it. The adventure changes the trajectory of life for some of them, while others are left more or less on the same path, and the profound change or lack thereof is explored in the ending.
Everything was there and around us. We knew exactly who we were and exactly where we were going. It was grand.
The writing, directing, and acting all come together to perfectly capture the waning innocence, growing volatility, and surprising depth of life when you’re twelve. The characters will go from talking about which Mickey Mouse Club actress is the hottest to talking about why their lives are doomed to mediocrity in the span of minutes, and you never know how each scene is going to pan out. There are good times, but, as stated by the protagonist, “I’m not sure it should be a good time.”
Stand By Me left me feeling a bit empty, as if I had lost something and would never get it back, but still happy to have had it in the first place. That’s exactly the point of the movie. It’s about growing up and losing the innocence of youth: four boys leave town and return men, and you’re not exactly sure when it happens, but by the end of the story, you know it’s happened. It’s a feeling that everyone can relate to, and, like the adult narrator, sometimes it surprises us when a recent event brings us back to our youth and we realize it for the first time.
I would recommend this movie to anyone with the self-awareness to search for their own defining moments; but it’s most relevant to teenage boys and young men, who may still be going through those changes and realizing those things for the first time. Overall, it’s a beautiful story with a wide appeal, but it will be especially meaningful to those who can personally relate.
Nominations: Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Raynold Gideon, Bruce A. Evans)
Director: Rob Reiner