“I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead human being. It happened in the summer of 1959-a long time ago, but only if you measure in terms of years.”The Writer
Rob Reiner’s classic coming of age drama has retained potency through its simplicity. Adapted from Stephen King’s novella The Body, the plot — four twelve-year-old boys hiking to find the dead body of a missing child — is less relevant than the relationships between them. Rob Reiner has said the key to unlocking the adaptation was making Gordie the central character, his older self narrating as a stand-in for Stephen King. Stand By Me succeeds primarily because of the performances that Reiner, still early in his directing career, draws out of the young actors. River Phoenix and Corey Feldman’s naturalistic delivery stands out, particuarly for child actors, despite the fact that it was Jerry O’Connell and Wil Wheaton who would go on to have longer-running success. The recurring theme of mortality holds greater significance since River Phoenix’s early death (seven years after Stand By Me was released), particularly in addressing Gordie’s trauma following his older brother’s death. There is also a wider sense that each of these boys have been failed by the authority figures in their lives, leading them to cling so tightly to one another. The film’s influence on Stranger Things is undeniable as a blueprint for the friendships between the show’s adventurous children. Although the dialogue can be crass, it realistically reflects the boys’ interests, with their interactions varying from supportive to jovially insulting to openly adversarial. Stand By Me is at its most tender in the sequences where Gordie and Chris plainly feel protective of one another but are clumsy in their efforts to show it.