I’ve seen Stand By Me many times. I first saw it during my Junior-year high school English class as an example of a bildungsroman1, or a story about growing up, rites of passage, etc. Every viewing after that was because of my wife, who grew up watching this movie. She loves it to death, and can quote most dialogue from it verbatim.
It’s easy to understand why. It’s a story about kids coming into their own, and defeating their elders. They still act juvenile, but you can tell that their teenage years are right around the corner.
Of the main four kids, each has his own character, and I guess that everyone who watches the movie relates to at least one of them. Personally, I see myself as equal parts Vern and Gordy, a little chubby, a little awkward and naive, but with a passion that would hopefully propel me to greater things2.
And then, there’s the music. Every song fits the milieu perfectly, and they’re all great songs from the period. I especially liked the instrumental down-tempo take on the title track during the falling action.
I noticed on this latest viewing that it establishes a formula that led The Wonder Years to later success. You have a story about a young man’s middle school years with his buddies, narrated by his older self. Much of the non-juvenile comedy in the movie comes from Gordy’s older self’s mature retrospective.
Both The Wonder Years and Stand By Me stand as successful examples of “dramedy”. A lot of their appeal results from the comedic portions, but the reason you keep coming back to them over the years is because of the lasting value of the story.
I highly recommend this movie to anyone who hasn’t seen it.