The Pebble And The Boy
17 Aug 2021
Patrick McNamee, Sacha Parkinson, Max Boast
An emotional road trip movie loaded with classic jams and stylish fashion, we’re going mod in the modern age with filmmaker Chris Green’s The Pebble & The Boy.
Opening with some archive footage of mods on their scooters, the film quickly drops the floor for the audience with a moving funeral. We learn that the central teenage character John (Patrick McNamee) has just lost his dad - who was an ardent mod in his heyday. After the mourners have left, John attempts to grieve for a father he feels he barely knew, throwing on albums of bands like The Jam and Paul Weller (who feature heavily on the film’s soundtrack as well as the title). The next day, he is delivered his father’s Lambretta scooter from the police compound and has no clue what to do with it. He settles on a plan to ride the unimposing yet brilliantly mirror-clad vehicle from Manchester to Brighton, where he will scatter his dad’s ashes. Along the way, John (rather conveniently it must be said) gets into scrapes and breakdowns - vehicular and emotional - within a stone’s throw of either friends of his dads that go back decades, or motorcycle enthusiasts who fix his bike for free or even help him get his helmet off. After stopping at one such pitstop he picks up Nicki (Sacha Parkinson) a breath of fresh, energetic air amongst the rather dull fumes as the film kicks into a higher gear and becomes an enjoyable cruise of British adventure and coming-of-age pathos.
Clearly aware of the legacy of mod-films like Quadrophenia (1979), The Pebble & The Boy manages to offset any heavy debt by keeping the film set in the present and telling a genuinely moving tale about a boy trying to uncover the mystery around his dad - all within the relevant context of the mod movement. Kicking off with the funeral was a smart touch (one reminiscent of the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)) as it instantly revealed the deeper tone of the film, a forewarning for any viewer mistaking this for just a hazy trip down memory lane. It’s not just a celebration of mod culture, music, and adventure. The storytelling keeps up the intensity with John’s central quest taking numerous swerves and curves through the British countryside.
The Pebble & The Boy gets a little scruffy in the final third, relying on already-worn sequences of John’s despair and fatigue too heavily, and there is some cumbersome dialogue delivered by the array of non-important characters. This, generally, doesn’t distract from the enjoyment of the piece because the investment in the story is so strong throughout.
There is a simple but effective mix of ingredients to deliver the narrative: the sombre drama, fun hijinks and comedy, as well as the road-trip movie structure which merge together like stripes on a mod jacket - the fashion in this film is worth the entry price alone.