CAST: Patrick McNamee, Sacha Parkinson, Max Boast, Patsy Kensit, Ricci Harnett, Jesse Birdsall, Emma Stansfield, Christine Tremarco, Stuart Wolfenden, Charlotte Tyree, Brian Croucher, Jamie Lomas, Rick S. Carr, James Mackie
RUNNING TIME: 101 mins
BASICALLY…: A young man (McNamee) journeys from Manchester to Brighton on his late father’s Mod scooter to scatter his ashes…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Mod culture is sacred amongst certain nostalgic Brits, for it reminds them of the glory days when scooters could be ridden freely, music by the likes of The Jam would blast out of speakers, and massive clashes against their mortal enemies the Rockers would make national news. Films made about them, like Quadrophenia and Blow-Up, would often revitalise their inner Mod spirit, and it’s clear that The Pebble and the Boy – from writer-director Chris Green – is trying to do the same thing, as To Be Someone from earlier this year also tried (and, from looking at the reception it received, failed) to do.
The problem with The Pebble and the Boy, though, is that its apparent celebration of the Mod lifestyle is entirely surface-level, like it’s made by people who have absolutely no idea what it is about the culture that has clearly stuck with people for decades. Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about Mod culture either, but at least I’m willing to admit that; this film feels as though its filmmakers went into it near-blind, and crafted a hollow, occasionally frustrating movie that barely tackles the ins and outs of such an institute while also delivering a mostly underwhelming movie on its own terms.
We open with our main character, Manchester-based college student John (Patrick McNamee), attending the funeral of his Mod father, who has died in a scooter accident. After receiving his father’s prized Lambretta scooter, he becomes inspired to ride it all the way down to Brighton, the spiritual home of the Mods, and scatter his father’s ashes. He is soon accompanied by Nikki (Sacha Parkinson), the wild and impulsive daughter of a fellow Mod, and who opts into John’s mission primarily because he’s also carrying a pair of Paul Weller tickets that she’s eager to use. Together, the wildly mismatched pair journey down to the coastal city of Brighton, getting into a few scraps along the way, including some vital information that might cause John to look at his late father in a whole new light.
It’s a road trip movie where the stakes have never been lower; there’s never a sense of urgency to get to Brighton in time for a particular event (even the Paul Weller concert becomes an afterthought after a while), while the incidents that these characters encounter along the way are easily solved without even putting a dent into their journey. It’s also a repetitive movie, with our protagonist constantly stopping and starting his journey the moment he runs into any complication, always being persuaded to continue by plot convenience instead of simply having the guts to carry on regardless. It isn’t even much of a road trip flick, because the characters reach their destination about halfway through, and as we spend the rest of the movie in Brighton the more it becomes apparent that there’s very little else that the movie wants to say or do, so it randomly throws in dramatic reveals and even sexual assaults just to fill the rest of the running time.
Most of all, though, you have to spend most of the movie with characters who are borderline intolerable. John is a whiny, petulant wet blanket of a protagonist, so much so that you really don’t care about this guy or his mission because he’s always moaning and, as stated earlier, stops and starts everything because he’s throwing a moody strop. He’s less endearing than the wilder Nikki is, who can be very obnoxious and even cruel at times (at one point, she steals the urn carrying John’s father’s ashes just to goad him on his journey, which she mainly participates in just for the Paul Weller tickets), but at least has more of an understandable personality. As if they weren’t enough, there are insufferable supporting characters who the movie forces you to spend more time with; along the way, the two leads meet the extremely rude and disrespectful son of a former Mod, and the whole time he’s on screen you just want to punch this entitled kid square in the face, but just when you think he’s finally out of the picture for good, it turns out that he’s actually joining them for the rest of the movie, for no real reason as it turns out. You’re left with a bunch of characters that you really don’t care about, and are aggravating at best, on this journey where we’re supposed to root for them but can’t because they’re insufferably annoying.
As for The Pebble and the Boy’s apparent celebration of Mod culture, there’s not much else to say since there’s barely a reason as to why it’s worth celebrating at all. The filmmakers don’t appear to possess the knowledge nor the admiration for the subculture beyond the most basic of iconography, leaving newcomers confused as to why it’s so appealing to some people, and active participants disappointed by its shallow depiction. It seems to just be there so the film can attempt to give itself some kind of personality, but it only alienates the audience further because not only does it not portray the culture endearingly enough for curious outsiders (or fully-engrossed fanatics), but it doesn’t work as an endearing road trip movie because it’s not an interesting journey, you don’t care about the characters, and there are zero stakes that are compelling enough to keep you hooked.
Just stick to Quadrophenia instead if you want a proper Mod movie; The Pebble and the Boy is a cheap dullard of an imitation that isn’t worth the trip.
SO, TO SUM UP…
The Pebble and the Boy is a flat and hollow attempt to celebrate Mod culture, which gives the viewer little reason to care about either the subculture itself or the film’s story, characters, and messages.