For Activity #3 on death and dying I chose a film by director Rob Reiner (This is Spinal Tap) entitled Stand by Me. The film involves a missing twelve year old boy who is found dead by four young friends. Stand by Me was released in 1986, based on Stephen King’s short story “The Body,” and includes notable stars Keifer Sutherland, John Cusack, Will Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell, Corey Feldman, and the now deceased River Phoenix. The themes of grief, death and dying run throughout the film as one central character has lost a brother in a motor vehicle accident, a young man is found bloated and deceased, while the opening shot of a newspaper states: “Attorney Christopher Chambers Fatally Stabbed in Restaurant” (Stand by Me).
Centrally, Stand by Me is about grief and coming to terms with loss, with character Gordie (Wheaton) stating at the end of the film “why did you have to die” (Stand by Me)? This snippet of dialogue comes right after the four boys have found Ray Brower and this discovery is a trigger for Gordie to resolve his feelings regarding the earlier loss of his brother. The final scene tells the story of Chris (Phoenix), Gordie’s friend, dying in a knife assault as once again Gordie (Richard Dreyfuss), much older, faces the loss of another loved one. Writing and storytelling are Gordie’s vehicle to resolve grief.