Retro Review: Stand by Me
Seeing films way after they are released can be a bad thing. Films that are set in an era can look cheap, the acting may seem out of touch, the cinematography dated. But some films you see decades after their first screening and they are just as good as any film at the cinema. Then you know you’ve stumbled upon a classic.
Stand by Me (1986) is not a complicated story. Based on Stephen King‘s The Body it tells of four adolescents on the brink of adulthood, standing on the crossroads trying to pick the path that will determine the rest of their lives. Accidentally hearing where a body of a missing boy their age lies, they set out to find it, report it and become heroes for doing so. As in all good stories they end up discovering things about themselves on the way. The simplicity of the script is its strength as more time is spent on characters and their relationships with each other than on plot pieces.
The boys are quite brilliantly cast, especially River Phoenix, who’s obviously the diamond among them. Kiefer Sutherland‘s Ace is the perfect bully and Richard Dreyfus is forgettable yet flawless as The Writer reminiscing. The soundtrack is also one of the nicest compilations of music of the era you can find and the play on the classic song Stand by Me by Ben E. King and J. Leiber and M. Stoller as the main score is very neatly done.
All in all the film is very pleasant and though it deals with difficult issues such as mortality and growing up it never becomes very dramatic. Some may find that if it were more dramatic it would have been likelier to be an instant classic but the story really doesn’t call for it.
Final Verdict: A sweet story of growing up told in a very pleasant and professional way. Stand by Me boasts outstanding performances from the boy quartet, a great soundtrack and a fine script.