A true ode to American boyhood, the film shines a sensitive spotlight on the crucial stage of pre-adolescence when everything seems uncertain. For the four protagonists, that’s the last weekend of summer before they enter junior high school.
As they cheerfully cross leech-infested swamps and outrun trains on their quest for glory, they contemplate their futures. Will poor Chris ever outrun his family’s poor reputation? And can Gordie escape the shadow of his late brother? Hell - will the four even still be friends by the following week?
We all watched Stand by Me as children.We all had our hearts in our mouths during the iconic train scene, and we whooped and giggled when Lard Ass got his disgusting revenge at the pie-eating contest. To revisit it now, as adults, reveals a depth and perspective we missed as children.
If only we had realised at the time that we were young enough to do anything, that a whole world exists outside of our small towns… If only we could’ve known that we’d never have it as good again. As the elder Gordie puts it, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
Rob Reiner’s 1986 classic – celebrating its 30th anniversary this year – brilliantly captures those moments we didn’t realise mattered until they became treasured memories. After all, do we look back on our youth and reminisce about exam results, or is it the fireside debates with our friends on important issues like whether or not Goofy is a dog?
The film has rightly been remembered for the late River Phoenix’s extraordinary performance, but all four actors deserve high praise. Everything rests on their energetic performances – anything less than absolute sincerity from them would coat the film with a sickly residue of sugary sentimentality. As it is, it feels timeless and fresh, a sparkling paean to the friendships that shape the rest of our lives, even if they don’t last forever.
There’s only one question left to ask – are you a Gordie, a Chris, a Vern or a Teddy? Find out for yourself on 25 July, part of our Vintage Sunday programme.