Friday 27 August 2021

"The Pebble and the Boy" (Guardian 27/08/21)

The Pebble and the Boy **

Dir: Chris Green. With: Patrick McNamee, Sacha Parkinson, Christine Tremarco, Patsy Kensit. 101 mins. Cert: 15

Quadrophenia love dies hard. After July’s ill-fated cast reunion To Be Someone, there follows this humdrum standalone from the sentimental end of British cinema’s Poverty Row, again seeking to capitalise on residual fondness for all things Mod. The star’s a scooter: a nifty runaround in Man City colours with two dozen rear-view mirrors sprouting from its front end, it’s a worthy steed for Patrick McNamee’s callow latter-day knight John Parker (geddit?) as he retraces his late dad’s tyretracks from Burnhamland to Brighton. This journey – and the rite-of-passage it represents – encompasses legends of old Jam gigs, 1980s songs picking up where the first Mods left off, and cameos from associate producer Patsy Kensit and Eldorado’s Jesse Birdsall. Those mirrors prove symbolic of an entirely backward-looking enterprise.

A prolific writer-director whose Me, Myself & Di opened back in June, Chris Green is at least caught on more crowdpleasing form than he was circa 2018’s Strangeways Here We Come, one of the most aggressively off-putting films I’ve ever reviewed in these pages. It’s hard not to feel predisposed to something that opens with Secret Affair’s “My World”, sets a moped montage to the Style Council’s “Speak Like a Child” and stops the action dead so everyone can have a mini-mosh to The Chords’ “Maybe Tomorrow”. Yet the sounds far outstrip the sights. With clearance fees devouring his budget, Green resorts to shooting in cramped kitchens and overcast lay-bys. For a supposedly eye-opening travelogue, the scenery remains thoroughly middle-of-the-road.

The drama, meanwhile, is proving fairly callow itself, hamstrung by episodic plot construction and unpersuasive characterisation. There’s a fun Mani cameo, and it’s a nice touch that the biker gang bearing down on John are absolute sweethearts. Yet for most of the ride, we’re stuck with a sappy hero and a tomboy in a Tacchini top (Sacha Parkinson) who is all too clangingly Girl Written by Man, dropping everything else in her life for the prospect of Paul Weller tickets. (Weller’s title song plays over the perfunctory third-act crisis.) In years to come, this may wind up among some season of Brexit-era films that recognised Britain’s glory days were long-distant – but for now, it seems thin and overstretched, exactly what results when you make a movie out of nowt but nostalgia.

The Pebble and the Boy opens in selected cinemas from today.

1 comment:

  1. Well talking about getting it wrong! Congratulations for a misguided review!