If you ask anyone who was around during the 80’s, they will most likely know about the classic movie Stand by Me, directed by Rob Reiner. It is a nostalgic piece—one of the most beloved films of all time, and what Stephen King deemed “the best adaptation of his work”—that has enthralled generation after generation. I was not alive in the 80’s, yet this film still speaks to me, more than 30 years later.
A group of four boys—portrayed by Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell—set out on Labor Day weekend in search of a dead body. Throughout their journey, we gain a deeper understanding of each character; we learn of their backstories and empathize with them. When they smile, we smile. When they hurt, we hurt.
I’m not going to go into the specific details, as that wouldn’t do the film justice. However, one scene that I will touch upon— “Milk Money”, arguably the best in the whole film—is brilliantly performed by the late, great River Phoenix. Phoenix’s character, Chris Chambers, has always had a troublemaker reputation due to his family’s criminal background. He recounts a time when he stole some milk money, but tried to give it back only to be betrayed by his teacher. Chris breaks down and frustratingly wishes he could go someplace where nobody knows him. River Phoenix brought life and natural emotion to his role, as did all of the boys, and the end product is one of the most touching films ever made. Stand by Me serves as a poignant tribute to Phoenix, a perfect depiction of his immense potential and talent.
Whether you’re an adult or a kid, Stand by Me is a timeless classic that continues to captivate audiences of all ages. Its seemingly simple plot evolves into a much more complex and somewhat dark message, yet it leaves you aching for memories you never even thought you had.
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”