#238 – Stand by Me (1986)

From 316,445 votes, Stand by Me has an 8.1/10 rating from the users of IMDb.

After the death of a friend, a writer recounts a boyhood journey to find the body of a missing boy.

Based on Stephen King’s novel ‘The Body’, Stand by Me is a story about four boys on a quest to find a dead body. Grim, right? Before watching this all I knew of the film was what I’d been exposed to in spoofs such as Family Guy’s which turns out to be more accurate than I’d thought it could be.

The film is a reminiscence of the narrator, a very obvious author avatar for Stephen King. He’s a writer whose childhood friend has been killed trying to stop a fight in a restaurant. He writes of an adventure he and his friends went on when they were twelve. The narrator and main character is Gordie (played by Wil Wheaton) who is ‘the smart one’. His brother has recently passed away and he’s plagued with sadness and doubt that his parents love him. The friend who was killed is Chris, a kid from a very rough family who feels destined to end up a failure at life. Third is Teddy, a boy whose father is both horrendously abusive and in an asylum. Despite this, Teddy respects him deeply. Rounding out the crew is Vern, a rotund kid who primarily serves as comic relief. He has no obvious traumas.

Screenshot 2018-06-12 15.00.06
Left to right: Vern, Chris, Gordie, Teddy

The plot is basically as follows: A child named Ray is missing, presumed dead. Vern overhears where his body may be and tells the gang about it in the scene pictured above. They decide to go find Ray before anyone else can so that they can be the ‘heroes who found the body’.

The film is so delightfully 80s. It’s set in the 60s and uses songs from the time to great effect, playing like a radio station over the boys’ adventure. There’s one wonderful scene where they’re walking along a railroad and Vern and Teddy are dancing in sync to the famous Lollipop song. There’s great use of the melody from the eponymous song too. You’ll find yourself recognising the tune every now and then, and when it plays in full during the credits you won’t help but listen all the way through,

While a bit cringy to begin with, the actors have a great deal of charm and act quite realistically like the kids they’re portraying. There’s much talk of both tits and Disney, including a great conversation about what the hell Goofy actually is. As an ex-child myself I have to say the characterisation of the kids is bloody spot on. They act and react as real kids too and after a while you forget that they’re acting, and you get to really like their friendship. It’s quite the gut-punch at the end of the film when you’re reminded that Chris is actually dead now.

For a film where the principal characters are young children, it’s very adult. Death is a main theme. The story is about a journey to find a dead body, the main character’s brother is recently dead, and the story is the recalling of memories of a dead friend. It’s very dark in that respect. Add to that a gang of very threatening villainous teenagers and much “fucking” and “shitting”and you have one very good film about kids that is not for kids. But then, this is Stephen King. What do you expect?

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Pictured: Hot douchebags

One of the most famous scenes in the film, something I knew about beforehand, is the railway bridge scene. The boys are crossing a large wooden bridge on railway tracks, after wondering whether or not they should wait for the next train to go past. Sure enough, whilst on the bridge the next train arrives. What follows is a gloriously tense scene in which Vern and Gordie are stuck running over precariously spaced apart slats of wood while a train gains on them. It’s a genuinely thrilling scene that had my blood pumping. The film is full of iconic scenes like that though. The boys get covered in leeches in a pond, and their panic is palpable. The confrontation with the hot douchebags is great, with their threats making us feel anxious for the boys we’ve followed for the last hour. The scene where Teddy snaps against the Junkyard owner is heartwrenching, hearing the cracks in his voice as he defends the honour of his father despite the horrific abuse he’s been put through. The movie is chock full of scenes that make you empathise with the protagonists, and it’s beautiful for it.

Screenshot 2018-06-12 16.41.52

I seriously enjoyed this film. It’s not my favourite King adaptation (that honour goes to Carrie) but it’s fantastic in its own right.

Quote of the Film: “I like the ending, the barfing was really good.”

One thought on “#238 – Stand by Me (1986)

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