By John Curley
The Manchester, England-based writer-director Chris Green had been working for several years to make the new feature film The Pebble and the Boy a reality. In 2017, Green directed a 20-minute promotional film of scenes from his The Pebble and the Boy script to drum up interest among potential contributors to a crowd funder that would help to get the feature-length version made. In 2019, most of the principal photography for the feature-film version had been completed, using different actors than those that had appeared in the promo-film version. The pandemic delayed the completion and release of the film. But the film had its premiere this past Friday, August 27th, in Brighton, England, and is currently being screened in over 100 cinemas in the U.K.
The decision to hold the film’s premiere in Brighton was no coincidence. The Pebble and the Boy is a Mod-themed film that celebrates and revels in the subculture’s fashion and music, and Brighton is, as Patrick McNamee’s John says in the film, “the spiritual home of the Mods.” A considerable part of the film’s action takes place in Brighton. While a viewer of the film doesn’t need to have a full understanding of Mod culture to enjoy the film, it certainly helps if they do.
The film takes its title from a song that appeared on Paul Weller’s 2005 album As Is Now, and Weller’s music plays a prominent role in the film soundtrack, with “Saturday’s Kids” by The Jam, “Speak Like A Child” and “A Solid Bond In Your Heart” by The Style Council and Weller’s solo tune that is the film’s title track all being used. The soundtrack also includes music by the Mod bands Secret Affair, The Chords and The Electric Stars. In addition, Mod icon Gary “Mani” Mounfield, The Stone Roses’ bassist, has a cameo in the film.
Mod fashions are important in the film, and the clothing brands Adidas, Tacchini, Lois, Fila, Pretty Green and Fred Perry are all on display. Also, a key scene in the film takes place in the Brighton-based Mod clothing shop Quadrophenia Alley.
The film centers on a young man from Manchester named John Parker (Patrick McNamee), who has recently lost his father. John’s father, Phil, was an ardent Mod, and he is given an appropriate Mod sendoff with a funeral procession of Mods on scooters following the hearse. Since Phil lived the Mod lifestyle, John believes that trekking to Brighton to sprinkle his father’s ashes there is the right thing to do. John’s mother, Dawn (Christine Tremarco), doesn’t think it’s a good idea. But John is determined and decides to set off for Brighton on his father’s scooter.
The scooter breaks down, and John phones Dawn to ask for help. Dawn phones Phil’s friend, Geoff (Stuart Wolfenden), who lives nearby, to go to the site to help John. When Geoff takes John to his home to fix the scooter, John meets Geoff’s very outgoing, free-spirited daughter, Nicki (Sacha Parkinson). Nicki serves as a counterpoint to John, who is considerably more buttoned down. Geoff warns John off about attempting to make the long trip to Brighton on the scooter and encourages him to return home. But Nicki convinces John to go, and she decides to go with him.
Along the way, John and Nicki encounter bikers who look fearsome but turn out to be friendly and visit another friend of their fathers’, Ronnie (Ricci Harnett), his wife, Sonia (Patsy Kensit) and their troublesome son, Logan (Max Boast). Ronnie gives off a strange vibe when discussing the old Mod days while intoxicated, which alarms Nicki and John, and then insists that Logan join them on their trip to Brighton. Neither John nor Nicki are thrilled at the prospect of Logan coming with them, but Ronnie would give them money that they needed to make the trip possible with the condition that Logan accompany them.
In Brighton, John and Nicki learn about a troubling part of Phil’s past and seek out Ali (Jesse Birdsall), a friend of Phil’s from Brighton, to clear the air about what had happened.
There is some outstanding cinematography of the Brighton seafront, including Brighton Pier and the ruins of the West Pier, which sit in the sea as a steel skeleton.
The Pebble and the Boy is a worthwhile film. It has received quite a bit of buzz in U.K. Mod circles. Despite some reports of the film being a “sequel” to 1979’s film version of Quadrophenia, it is definitely not. Although, there is a cheeky reference to Quadrophenia by Nicki, while she and John are standing by the famous Brighton alleyway from that film.
Chris Green has crafted an enjoyable and meaningful film. Here’s hoping that it gets distribution in North America. It certainly deserves to.
The trailer for the film can be seen below: