In Stand By Me (1986), Rob Reiner transports us back to early teenagehood and depicts the common memories of having fun with friends, discovering oneself and becoming an adult.
Is this movie a coming of age story? It’s ambiguous. A coming of age story is when we witness the growth of characters onscreen, through certain experiences, they go from youth to a relative maturity. Here, the movie starts and the protagonists are already dealing with especially hard issues. The paroxysm of it will be the discovery a young boy’s corpse in the woods, which embodies the end of the boys’ quest, and maybe the end of their childhood? As their journey ends, their issues reappear; they have to go back to neglective parents, family issues, and trouble to fit in.
Even though all the main characters are rather young, they show extreme humility and maturity when confronted to especially hard obstacles. At just 13, one of them has had to deal with an abusive father (Corey Feldman), another lost his older brother and has to face broken parents (Wil Wheaton), while another is discriminated because of his family (River Phoenix). Here, those teens who look like any other are actually much more mature than they seem. The story is narrated by Gordie (Wheaton), who lost his brother in an accident. The older brother, pride of the family, being gone, his parents have to face reality and neglect Gordie. He then has to face a multiple loss: his brother and his parents. Even if these young boys all have to deal with serious problems, they know how to put it aside to get together, despite their differences, which is what will eventually separate them in the end.
“Do you think I’m weird?”
“No man, seriously. Am I weird?”
“Yeah, but so what? Everybody’s weird.”
As Gordie says as a middle-aged man in the end, this trek was the last time they were really together as a group, and the last real friends he ever got. After all, the boys all went their own way, and even if each of them believed to be destined to an extraordinary life, they all ended up having pretty common lives. This makes it a reflective piece about growing up and drifting apart.
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.
Jesus, does anyone?”