Director: Rob Reiner.
Screenplay: Raynold Gideon, Bruce A. Evans.
Starring: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, Casey Siemaszko, Bradley Gregg, Gary Riley, Jason Oliver, John Cusack, Marshall Bell, Frances Lee McCain, Richard Dreyfuss, Bruce Kirby, Andy Lindberg.
Predominantly known for his horror stories, writer Stephen King released a book in 1982 called “Different Seasons“. It contained four novellas, three of which, went on to become successful Hollywood movies which were very far from most other adaptations of his work. One was Bryan Singer’s “Apt Pupil” another was Frank Darabont’s “The Shawshank Redemption” and the third – originally entitled “The Body” – became Rob Reiner’s “Stand By Me“.
Four young friends, Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix), Vern (Jerry O’Connell) and Teddy (Corey Feldman) go on an adventure together to find the dead body of a local boy who was supposedly hit by a train. By following the tracks, the friends’ journey becomes more about them and their personal struggles and soon, the boyish adventure becomes about their experiences of entering adulthood.
Delivered with a wonderfully nostalgic narration by Richard Dreyfuss and a good feel for 1950’s Americana, this inviting and honest, coming-of-age, tale captures the spirit of youth like very few others. Reiner’s feel for the time and the material is pitched so perfectly that you are completely transported back to this era. It’s imbued with a sublimely evocative soundtrack of classic 1950’s songs, ranging from; Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” through Buddy Holly’s “Everyday“, The Chordettes’ “Lollipop” and, of course, Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me“. It’s this very attention to detail that truly brings this affectionate and sentimental film to life, while completely involving you in the trials and tribulations of the four, endearing, youths at it’s centre. The four youths in question are embodied with charm and nuance by Wheaton, Feldman, O’Connell and, especially, Phoenix. They are so natural in their deliveries that the failed careers they would go on to have didn’t merit the performances delivered here. Phoenix was the only one of the four who would receive critical praise, but sadly his life was cut short at the tender age of 23, making his performance all the more poignant.
Rarely has a film captured the innocence and growing pains of young boys on the road to manhood and rarely do you ever get such a rich and heartfelt delivery. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t experience the 1950’s; stepped foot on an Americana front porch or played mailbox baseball. What matters, is that you identify with the characters’ rite of passage and that it still perpetuates it’s relevance.
A wonderfully rustic and nostalgic gem, that’s still as inviting and honest as it was on it’s release. This is one of those timeless cult-classic’s that will always find an audience to resonate with.