STAND BY ME (1986)

by williamldennis

Had to watch this one in two sittings because I started watching it late at night while fighting a cold.

While a lot of the dialogue was cheesy and the “friend love” a bit over the top, it does manage to get across a feeling of honest and youthful affection for your friends that can only happen at the unique time when you’re emotionally mature enough to look outside yourself but you still haven’t hit puberty yet. It’s a unique time when your friends take over as the most valuable relationships in your life – taking over from your parents and before any romantic companions.

Motifs of death, growing up, individualism, family dysfunction, and standing up for what you believe in are sprinkled nicely without hitting you over the head too strongly. It’s a well told story of kids just old enough to deal with real issues the world throws at them.

Most of the faults of the film – cliche or sappy dialogue, over-acting – are likely tied to the style of filmmaking at the time and are mostly easy to overlook. In a way, the dated feel of the film adds to the nostalgia and underscores the reflective, narrative nature of the telling.

The voice over by Richard Dreyfus – providing some colorful details and backstory – was charming and helped keep the momentum of the film up, which at time borders on dreamy if not sleepy (that may be my cold medicine talking, though). While revealing the narrator at the end feels a bit explicit, seeing Gordie fulfilling his dream of being a writer and explicitly calling out their friendship is both thematically correct and emphatic.

While this won’t enter my personal canon of greatest films like it does for some, it’s a collection of nice moments that make you feel nostalgic for your own childhood friends of that specific age. I think that’s the point and I think that makes STAND BY ME a success.

And it’s always fun to see a cameo by young Keifer Sutherland playing a street tough with bleached blonde hair.  Corey Feldman as “damaged goods” Teddy Duchamp was also a scene stealer.