Stand By Me

21 Aug

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Stand By Me is the story of Gordie Lachance (Will Wheaton) and three teenage friends on a journey to find a dead body. The story is narrated by an older Gordie telling the tale of some of his formative days. His friends are Chris (River Phoenix), Teddy (Corey Feldman) and Vern (Jerry O’Connell).

Each of the kids has their own problems. Gordie is haunted by the death of his older brother who he looked up to, and whom he feels his dad always loved far more. Chris has a family name that carries with it a bad reputation, Teddy was abused by his father and Vern is…well he’s just Vern. The four of them make a fantastic group of friends, all with sufficiently different, multi-layered personalities, but similar enough to believe them as a group of mates.

The film packs in some incredibly emotional moments. If you don’t have a lump in your throat at a tearful outburst from Chris then you have a heart of stone. Gordie is full of moving scenes, and it is in these roles that River Phoenix and Will Wheaton become the real stand out performers of the movie. Their two accomplices are also perfectly cast and play their parts brilliantly, but the main buddy story is definitely that of Chris and Gordie. It’s a beautifully drawn relationship that follows a brilliant arc and progresses in a completely engrossing manner.

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The story and screenplay really is excellent. Although the tale is set around the search for a dead body, this is only a good plot device – a clever backdrop to set these people in motion together. They could be going anywhere for any reason, just so long as they’re in each others company. Whether or not they find the body isn’t necessarily that important. The all important coming-of-age element lies purely in the journey they make together.

With a completely over the top, pantomime-esque villain called Ace (Kiefer Sutherland) that you will absolutely hate, even the ‘baddies’ are well drawn. Sutherland’s screen time is limited, but judged to perfection in driving the story on; you’re always aware of him lurking in the background, waiting to make his real impression on the story.

Stand By Me might just be the quintessential coming-of-age tale. In placing a group of young people together, getting me to invest in their stories and wanting to see how they come out of the other side, only The Breakfast Club springs to mind as being on par. It’s taken me a long time to watch this classic, but I’m really glad I did. It lived up to every expectation and I’d happily recommend it as an absolute must-see for any film fan.

9/10

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