While countless new movies are reaching Netflix’s audiences every week, we like to take the time to revisit some of the classics they have on offer through our Netflix Flashback series. This week we are reimagining the feeling of summer with Stand By Me.
So precise is the feeling, that only a handful of films are able to access its ethereal weight, namely Bruce Brown’s seminal surfing documentary The Endless Summer and Frank Perry’s eerie parable of lost youth in The Swimmer. The most popular film to access this feeling, however, is no doubt Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me, a classic coming-of-age tale adapted from the dark mind of Stephen King.
A winding tale about the journey of the adolescent transition, King writes his story from the perspective of one of the young characters who is now far older, looking back on his days of blissful youth. Spiking his story with the gravity of time’s endless flow, King creates a story that breathes with the nostalgia of flicking through a dusty photo album whilst also acting as a joyous ode to the ecstasy of youth.
Cleverly constructed, the classic 1986 movie tells a coming-of-age story at the exact point of transition, where the four young male characters are psychologically turned from boys to men.
Setting out on a day trip of discovery, the film is prodded into life by Vern (Jerry O’Connell), one of four young friends, who encourages all of them to venture out to see the body of a missing boy near the town of Castle Rock, Oregon, during Labor Day weekend 1959. Roused in morbid curiosity, Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix) and Teddy (Corey Feldman) set out on a wild journey through the night that will take them to their questionable destination.
Capturing the fading golden glow of the summer seasons, where youthful adventure and fleeting romance hastily blossom, the boys trade stories on their travels whilst having to physically evade the obstacles before their path, most famously the moving train they encounter on a terrifyingly long rail bridge. Indeed, the film is not at its best when indulging in such set pieces, but rather in the moments of downtime when the remarkably talented child actors talk the night away with authentic youthful harmony.
Spinning the film on a dime, it is the fictional story of David “Lard-Ass” Hogan, told under the twilight of the stars and in the glow of the campfire, which remains one of the most memorable scenes. Utterly farcical and excessive, the tall-tale tells the story of an obese boy who seeks revenge on his tormentors by competing in a pie-eating contest only to throw up over his bullies in the crowd in an act Gordie refers to as a “barf-o-Rama”.
It’s the kind of tale you wouldn’t hear anywhere else but in a gaggle of close friends, perfectly reflecting the group’s youth as they yearn for maturity by smoking cigarettes whilst listening intently. On the precipice of their teenage years, the 12-year-old boys are living out the remainder of their summer with blissful ignorance of their future, unable to recognise the significance of such a day until years in the future.
It all leads to a finale that reflects the cauldron of emotions that swirls at the end of the summer season, as one looks fondly back on the memories formed whilst regretting that such memories will never be lived again. It’s a conflicting moment of utter melancholy described with accurate poetry by the great Jonathan Richman, who sings, “Some things were good before and some things never were, but that summer feeling is gonna haunt you one day in your life”.
As summer draws to a close, Stand by Me acts as a great reminder to cherish those moments of sunshine that you have left and embrace the inevitability of autumn. After all, September is simply one step closer to next summer.