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  • Writer's pictureJeff South

Other Summer Movies of the 80s: St. Elmo's Fire

Released: June 29th, 1985

Demi Moore: Jules

Rob Lowe: Billy Hicks

Andrew McCarthy: Kevin Dolenz

Emilio Estevez: Kirby Keger

Judd Nelson: Alec Newbary

Ally Sheedy: Leslie Hunter

Mare Winningham: Wendy Beamish

Screenplay by Joel Schumacher and Carl Kurlander

Directed by Joel Schumacher

Rated R

The girl from 1984 had return. It was so wonderful having her back in town. I knew everything would be as it was. We would pick up where we left off and enjoy a summer of blissful romance. What would happen at the end of that summer was not a thought. If I pretended it wasn't on the horizon, then perhaps it would never come. How weird is that? College awaited and I knew that and it was something I anxiously awaited. Yet, this wonderful girl wouldn't be part of it. Why did that have to be?

On one of our dates, we went to see St. Elmo's Fire. We were both excited to see it because it starred actors we liked and we had loved The Breakfast Club. The comparisons between the two films were unavoidable at the time and their are some thematic similarities beyond their respective angst. The Breakfast Club presents high school students trapped in detention (I've always appreciated that symbolism) struggling with identity and learning to accept others and one's self. One of its central themes is "when you grow up, your heart dies." St. Elmo's Fire feels like the exploration of that sentiment seen through the eyes of college graduates trying to make their way in the world. The new adults in St. Elmo's Fire struggle with the inevitable change that comes with growing up. Even though none of them say the line "when you grow up, your heart dies," They do grapple with not staying friends forever. "Yeah," Andrew McCarthy's Kevin says, "well forever got a lot shorter all of a sudden."

I should've paid more attention to that movie at that time in my life. Change and growth are unavoidable and must be embraced whether we want it or not. Sometimes we create change. Sometimes change is thrust upon us.

For example, on the day of my 18th birthday, I was sitting at home grounded because I had gone on a float trip without telling my folks. They had planned a cookout to celebrate my birthday the day before and I thought I'd be able to pull of both events and they'd be none the wiser. What an idiot I was. My dad and I were already at odds over my decision to go to college. He thought I should stay home and go to the local junior college for a couple of years, but I wanted to spread my wings or some shit like that.

My dream girl of two summers drove to my house while my parents were at work to visit me. Her body language and forlorn expression told me this wasn't going to be one last make-out session before the summer ended. She sat forward on our couch and told me that it was time for both of us to move on. It was time to let go. This relationship wasn't going to survive us going to our separate ways to college. She was right, of course. Honestly, I should've realized it before she ever returned and made the summer easier for her. For both of us. As it was, I hung on a little too tight to something that wasn't meant to be.

I bought the 45 rpm single of John Parr's theme song for "St. Elmo's Fire" after she and I saw the movie because I loved the song so much. After she left the day, I played it over and over until my folks got home. My mom asked me if I was okay and I said I was fine in that non-committal way a sullen grounded teen with a broken heart does.

"What did you do today?" she asked.


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