One of the strongest coming-of-age films in a Lakeside Cinema season full of them. Info
This summer's Lakeside Cinema series clearly has a coming-of-age focus, given that the calendar features films like Big (1988) and The Iron Giant (1999). But for those of us who experienced our childhoods racing down hills on BMX bikes, exploring uncharted territories with our besties, and just wishing the summer would never end, Rob Reiner's 1986 film Stand By Me (1986) stirs up an especially powerful longing. (Specifically for those summer days before kids were glued to their black mirrors sending drivel on Snapchat.)
Based upon the 1982 Stephen King novella The Body, the film boasts an '80s heartthrob-to-be ensemble cast of Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O'Connell. The film artfully sets up the plot as flashback: an adult Gordie Lachance (Richard Dreyfuss) recalls a story about his 12-year-old self and his friends. Before Labor Day weekend of 1959 in Castle Rock, Oregon, Gordie is still processing his grief over his brother's death. He spends time socializing, even though he is the quiet one in his friend group. Vern (Jerry O'Connell) overhears his older brother say that he found the body of what may be a missing child several miles away. Vern tells the group, and they decide they want to embark upon a mission to find the body.
The next 24 hours they spend together not only test the boundaries of their friendship, but become a hallmark moment for these soon-to-be young-men that will bind them together for the rest of their lives. River Phoenix's turn as Chris Chambers gave us a glimpse of what could have been prior to his tragic death in 1993. What still strikes me even now about this beautiful film is how it does not portray childhood with the fluff and bubblegum pop that can be standard in coming of age stories, but really grapples with such serious issues as physical abuse, bullying, childhood death, and what happens once the world has already made up its mind about you. —Edwanike Harbour