On Finally Seeing “Stand by Me”

So it has only taken me about three decades to finally see itekskshrb
“Stand By Me.”
 And now, like every convert to everything, ever, I want everyone to watch it.

The four 7th grade boys off in search of a dead body (knowing this doesn’t spoil the movie at all) embody the kind of Free-Range childhood many of us think we remember, even if we lived in the ‘burbs and the closest we got to death was watching Goldie swirl down the toilet. But what those boys had, besides an adventure, was time on their own. Time to be silly, scared, stupid (the characters were all three), which meant they also had time to be bewildered, bonded and brave.

Beyond that — and this gets slightly into spoiler territory — the reason the movie resonates on an even deeper Free-Range frequency is because of its underlying theme: The randomness of death.

Okay, everyone who hasn’t seen the movie — or read the “The Body,” by Stephen King, that it was based on  —  click onto another page NOW. Because (those of you still here), when you think of all three deaths — boy in the woods, brother,  lawyer — they were all horrific and unpredictable. So the idea that you can keep your loved ones completely safe, that modern day societal death grip,  holds zero water in the movie. For gosh sake, the main character’s last name is Lachance.

The boys themselves come very close — twice — to the same death suffered by the boy in the woods. They come out not only alive, but stronger. How do they all that growing?

Time on their own.

The movie shows that sometimes this can go sour — the thuggish older brothers embody that, as does the dead boy himself.  But it celebrates the upside  — confidence,  maturity —  for four very different types of kids.

We think, today, our job is to watch our kids ALL THE TIME, physically, electronically, or by putting them in a program.  Our highest priority is to keep them safe by keeping them supervised. We see giving them time on their own as a risk.

Rather than a right. –  L.

stand-by-me

This Free-Range movie isn’t just about adventure.

29 Responses to On Finally Seeing “Stand by Me”

  1. craig August 18, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    One of my favorite movies… EVER. Congrats on finding it. Now, don’t even tell me that you haven’t seen Princess Bride or I might have to dislike your page.

  2. Gary August 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    “So it has only taken me about three decades to finally see “Stand By Me.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqyixwqiCag

  3. Donna August 18, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    I haven’t seen this movie in years. So long that I don’t remember a dead lawyer at all. I only vaguely remember the brother. May be time to look it up on netflix and rewatch.

    I do wonder how you’ve made it until now without seeing this movie. I guess I shouldn’t wonder too hard since I’ve somehow managed to not see Titanic.

  4. AB August 18, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    Also the movie “The Jouney of Natty Gann” is a good free range kid movie where a twelve year old girl, a teenage boy, and a wolf (yes a wolf not a dog!) go on an adventure to find the girl’s dad during the Depression era. As a kid I enjoyed both movies ( I only saw “Stand By Me” censcored for network TV though).

  5. hineata August 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    @Donna – how could you possibly have missed Titanic, LOL? I still sob at the mum putting her kids to bed, and the Astors, and I am not a movie sook 🙂

    @Lenore – such a great movie! While I wouldn’t care to emulate the style of parenting these particular boys got (nor would I want the parents’ circumstances!!) the kids survived, and survived well, and had a huge amount of fun that weekend! The kind of thing we would have done in the Seventies if we could, but told our parents first, goody-two-shoes that we were :-). As it was we would go bush all day, but the most we ever found was an abandoned toilet block, LOL!

  6. Rick August 18, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    And then there’s ET the Extraterrestrial. What?! Kids flying around with an alien? He’s a pedophile!

    Okay, so when I was 6 I used to ride my bike to Kindergarten alone, though given it was just a quarter mile away. But this was 1971 when people actually believed kids could think for themselves.

  7. Emily Guy Birken August 18, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    I was just thinking about this movie the other day. It was one of my Dad’s favorites when I was a kid, and we watched it together several times. I know it took him back to his own childhood in the 50s and the kinds of friendships he had forged. This movie gave me a sense of what independence is supposed to look like when I was a child no older than 10. I hoped to have friends as good as Gordie’s when I was 12, since you never have friends that great again. (“Jesus, does anyone?”)

    I was thinking about this movie recently because my dad passed away earlier this year. He was an incredible movie buff, and I’ve been trying to think of kid-friendly favorites of his that I could show my sons to help them understand their Grandpa (since Blade Runner is definitely out for the foreseeable future), and I remembered how much Dad and my sister and I had enjoyed watching this film together.

    What really strikes me funny is the fact that Dad ended up being Mr. Overprotective about his grandkids. But I know he still would want them to have the grand adventures he remembered from his own childhood.

  8. Sarah Sorensen August 18, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    I just let my 9 year old daughter watch this today, with her 20 year old brother, I while we drove him back to college! A great movie.

  9. Sarah Sorensen August 18, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    I just let my 9 year old daughter watch this today, with her 20 year old brother, while we drove him back to college! A great movie.

  10. Kim Tallant August 18, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    I freakin LOVE this movie! Of course I’ve been reading Stephen King since I was ten. My mom was old school free range though. My friends an I rode bikes all over town, swam all day at the community pool, played in drainage ditches, etc. I’m trying to raise my girl the same way but it’s hard.

  11. J Grene August 18, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    Good call. Stephen King is under-rated as a short-story writer, and Stand By Me is one of his very best. The movie is unusually good at bringing the story to the screen. It gets an A+.

    Old people will recognize their childhood in this movie, but the younger kids will wonder what planet those young men are from…

    Everyone who hasn’t seen it should take time and watch (or read) the story.

  12. Kenny Felder August 18, 2013 at 8:50 pm #

    I have always loved that movie. It works well on so many levels.

  13. Rob August 18, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    LOVE Stand By Me, as well as the short story it’s based on. I remember watching the movie with my family when I was about 16 (in 1986) and my parents being appalled by the language the kids used. As I remember, some critics were turned off by the language at the time, also.

    Once I saw the movie, I watched it every chance I got, and my parents just could not understand why I was so drawn to it. One day my mom asked me why I was so obsessed with a movie about some kids looking for a dead body and I was like, mom, it’s not about some kids looking for a dead body, it’s about some kids going on an adventure! We saw the movie two totally different ways.

    It’s funny, touching, exciting, a little sad…

    I think it’s about time to sit down and show it to my 14 year old…

  14. Cassie August 19, 2013 at 2:34 am #

    The book “Rocket Boys” and the associated movie “October Sky” is a true story along similiar free-range vein.

    The movie and the book are very different, the book is amazingly free-range.

    My review if you are interested:
    http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/152592282

  15. Really Bad Mum August 19, 2013 at 5:02 am #

    I loved the Aussie move ” The Shiralee” about a father who takes his daughter with him as he works around Australia.

  16. John Sousa August 19, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    As long as they don’t try to Dodge a Train. Not even my friends and I were that dumb.

    So there should be a “DON’T PLAY TRAIN DODGE” rule.

  17. Stacie August 19, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    A lot of Stephen King’s child characters are incredibly free-range. Has anyone read It? Talk about free-range!

  18. Warren August 19, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    Not the most family friendly movie, but full of free range moments.

    Stephen King’s “IT”.

    Even when kids are disappearing the local beat cop doesn’t send kids building a dam home. Just lets them know that there is safety in numbers.

    Kids standing up to bullies, long lasting friendships, and of course another fantastic performance by Tim Curry.

  19. Angela August 19, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    We never did any overnights, but I fondly remember following train tracks. Miles we’d go, into the suburbs, then the country. We collected old horseshoes from the old barns that had been abandoned after roads and highways took much of the train’s business away.

    One time, while crossing an open bridge, we thought we heard a train coming. We paniced, ran to get to the other side, and I mistakenly stepped *between* the pieces of wood instead of on them. Luckily there were no broken bones, but it was a long, painful, limping trek back. I love the story behind that scar.

  20. Matthew Fulton August 19, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    I seen this movie in the theater the summer I was 10 years old. My friend and I were waiting for the bus going from Arlington MA to Somerville MA. While waiting at the bus stop in front of the movie theater the person working asked us if we wanted to see the movie. I’ll never forget that. The movie was very reminiscent of my child hood. Smoking cigarettes walking the tracks swearing like a truck driver and being able to things on my own. The older kids in my neighborhood were always messing with me it wasn’t bullying it was that way it was. My older cousin hung me on a fence post by my underwear. It didn’t traumatize me it ruined my underwear but I look back now and laugh about it. I was a free range kid since birth I was able to navigate buses and subways in the Boston area from the earliest age. I collected cans and bottles and returned them for the deposit to get fare. I shoveled side walks delivered news papers anything I could do to make money.I’m so glad my parents let me do that. Today’s kids you can’t punish them by keeping them inside they prefer to be inside. When I was a kid being inside was the worst punishment ever. I remember looking out the window watching the world go by and regretting what I did to get punished in the first place. I could go on and on but I won’t. I’m glad I was a kid when I was. I wouldn’t trade anything in my childhood even knowing what I know now.

  21. Matthew Fulton August 19, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    I seen this movie in the theater the summer I was 10 years old. My friend and I were waiting for the bus going from Arlington MA to Somerville MA. While waiting at the bus stop in front of the movie theater the person working asked us if we wanted to see the movie. I’ll never forget that. The movie was very reminiscent of my child hood. Smoking cigarettes walking the tracks swearing like a truck driver and being able to things on my own. The older kids in my neighborhood were always messing with me it wasn’t bullying it was that way it was. My older cousin hung me on a fence post by my underwear. It didn’t traumatize me it ruined my underwear but I look back now and laugh about it. I was a free range kid since birth I was able to navigate buses and subways in the Boston area from the earliest age. I collected cans and bottles and returned them for the deposit to get fare. I shoveled side walks delivered news papers anything I could do to make money.I’m so glad my parents let me do that. Today’s kids you can’t punish them by keeping them inside they prefer to be inside. When I was a kid being inside was the worst punishment ever. I remember looking out the window watching the world go by and regretting what I did to get punished in the first place. I could go on and on but I won’t. I’m glad I was a kid when I was. I wouldn’t trade anything in my childhood even knowing what I know now.

  22. Papilio August 19, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    Sorry, completely off topic, but… Pfoow. Just watched this documentary on the SOR. Made by Swedes, and they just let people talk without commenting or judging. Parents, SOs, police, family members of SOs, other people somehow involved.
    There was this middleaged guy telling about how he had to stay away from churches and day cares and schools and libraries and parks and beaches – I was surprised he could still even get anywhere in town because it must be quite difficult to stay 300 meter away from all those things – according to him he wasn’t even supposed to drive past a church, sitting in the back of the car while being filmed.
    Mind you – this man was BLIND!
    I don’t even know whom I felt more sorry for (is this even English?): that blind man, the paranoid mom afraid of every shadow (‘they’re everywhere – that’s why we don’t go out of trick or treat anymore!’), the 14??yo boy who had nightmares every night and was always listening if no-one had broken into the house to rape or rob him and/or his parents, or the mom of a 22yo SO tearing up because her son didn’t want to live most of the time, after downloading porn with girls his age (16!, no prepubescent kids).
    It was just sad for all of them.

  23. sylvia_rachel August 19, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    LOVE that movie. I first saw it in the theatre when I was right around the same age as Gordie et al., and I was never able to hate on Wesley Crusher with the same passion everyone else seemed to, because I could never forget how Gordie LaChance was so freaking adorable.

    Anyway.

    To be perfectly fair, my recollection is that the boys’ parents don’t actually know what they’re doing. Two of them have genuinely abusive and/or neglectful parents, and the other two, IIRC, either lie to their parents about where they’re going to be or just sneak out. But I might need to watch it again to be sure 😉

  24. Kay August 19, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    I have the DVD at home, waiting to show it to my boys. It has some rough language in it so not so sure but I like the example of these kids able to handle themselves on their own.

  25. Uly August 19, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

    Off topic, but read this:

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/15/when-nature-calls-a-bus-driver/

    It’s a little piece about a bus driver having to make a mad dash for the toilet.

    Hidden in the comments is this gem:

    I don’t blame the driver for locking up the bus while she had to answer to nature’s call. The passengers inside the bus are her responsibility until they arrive at their destination. That’s why MTA has insurance for bus safety. With the assortment of wackos walking the streets who is to say that one of them would not enter an open bus, robbed or murdered the passengers, tried to steal the fare box or even try to hold the bus as hostage? Even in stifling heat the driver did the correct thing. If you want comfort and air conditioning take a taxi.

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!

  26. Bob Davis August 21, 2013 at 3:09 am #

    Haven’t seen the movie (that applies to a lot of films), but that publicity still of the kids walking along the railroad tracks raises a red flag. No matter how adventurous your kids are, they shouldn’t be “in the gauge” on tracks. Even if there’s usually only one train a week, the railroad may need to spot a car on short notice and send out a “extra” run. About 35 years ago we had an incident here in my area in which vandals set loose a pair of freight cars in Pomona (about 30 miles east of LA). The tracks are mostly downhill west of Pomona, so off they went. I saw the cars when I was in Azusa, and happened to look up and see the crossing gates going down by the Santa Fe station. My first thought on seeing the first car was, “My, they’re switching them hot (fast) today”. Then the second car came by and….that was it. No locomotive! A chill (literally!) went down my back as I realized,”Runaway!!” I headed westward, figuring the upgrade at Arcadia might slow them down, and at Duarte, I spotted the cars going eastbound more slowly, and a Santa Fe employee on hand to board the cars and secure the hand brake. Fortunately, by then, they were moving slow enough for the man to get on board safely (there’s a special technique for boarding moving trains that I learned at the Railway Museum), and bring the cars to a stop. What I didn’t find out until later was that a teenage boy walking home from school had been on the tracks and was fatally injured by the cars on their westward path. Runaway cars don’t sound horns to warn trespassers off the tracks.

  27. Carleton Kendrick August 21, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us-TVg40ExM

  28. Warren August 21, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    Bob,
    Relax on the track walking. We did it, my kids do it, and yes people get hurt or killed, as they do by lightening, and flash floods, and interstellar conflicts with the native or Uranus.

  29. JW August 22, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    Great write up, Lenore. I never noticed the “Lechance” reference before. Nice!

    It’s not just about death, but also about violence. The older brother crowd seems to have embraced the violent aspects of masculinity in their culture. The younger boys, meanwhile are still trying to figure out for themselves what it means to be a man. Can they be masculine while still crying in front of each other and coming to each other’s aid? Can they be masculine without being overly violent and cruel? Whatever the answer, the movie proposes that the boys need that time without direct parental supervision to figure it out for themselves. I would argue that it helps to have good adult male role models too, but since that’s pretty much lacking from the film, they can only learn from each other.

    Not a movie (yet), but check out the Newbery award winning novel Dead End in Norvelt for another excellent take on these themes set in almost the same time period.