Writer and Director: Chris Green
Chris Green’s latest film The Pebble and the Boy, which takes its title from a 2005 Paul Weller track, puts a new twist on the summer road movie using the music of the Modfather himself as the basis for a coming-of-age tale. Celebrating the nostalgic legacy of the soundtrack, distinctive clothing and their beloved scooters, Green’s Brighton-bound film examines inter-generational identity shaped by the maxim ‘once a mod, always a mod’ even in the modern world.
Following the death of his father, 19-year-old John decides to hop on his dad’s vintage scooter on a road trip from Manchester to Brighton to scatter his ashes. With his mum against the idea, James takes his father’s original Mod anorak and begins an eventful journey south, meeting his dad’s friends and picking up some travelling companions on the way. But how much does John really know about the man he admired?
There’s nothing particularly surprising about The Pebble and the Boy which is, in many ways, a standard journey film in which a character travelling a physical distance also develops a greater sense of self. As both writer and director, Green sets about half of the film on the road and the rest exploring the Brighton of yesteryear where the film’s pivotal events and realisations play out. When John picks up some travelling companions including the more self-assured Nicki, the various teenage entanglements tread an expected path but there is an innocent charm to the unfolding story that makes you root for them all.
Green has set the story in contemporary Britain but wraps the film in the visual and musical stylings of the late 1970s and early 1980s among the men (primarily) who maintain the faith in the mod lifestyle. You need only look at the queue outside Somerset House’s 2015 exhibition The Jam: About the Young Idea to know that Green will have a captive audience for his movie. Helen Watson’s production design is incredibly stylish, sourcing plenty of original material that complete the Mod look which is particularly alluring against the Brighton seafront in Max Williams’ cinematography.
Patrick McNamee is an engaging lead, showing John’s grief while remaining a little removed from the memory of his father with his sceptical almost rebellious disinterest in the Mod lifestyle that forces its way into his consciousness as the film unfolds. There is a loneliness in the character that McNamee uses as a tool to separate John from those around him while still finding empathy and value in his character arc.
A raft of famous faces turn-up in supporting roles with varying degrees of success. Patsy Kensit’s Sonia attempts an ill-fated Mrs Robinson seduction while married to Ricci Harnett’s controlling Ronnie, and Jessie Birdsall makes a welcome eleventh hour appearance as a rival Rocker but it’s McNamee and Sacha Parkinson’s film as John and Nicki explore their musical inheritance and, as absolute beginners, determine their own identity.
Superfans may be disappointed with only four Weller tracks in the movie covering his time in The Jam, The Style Council and his solo career while the dangled possibility of a concluding concert doesn’t pay off. In recompense, Green subtly slips in a song title or two into the dialogue so listen out for references to the group being As Thick as Thieves and such like. The Pebble and the Boy may be a fairly unsurprising road movie but as a celebration of when you’re young and a soundtrack of classic hits, it’s a journey worth taking.
The Pebble and the Boy will be in UK cinemas from 27 August.