Cop Secret had its premiere at the BFI London Film Festival 2021, it’s an Icelandic action-comedy parodying the high octane Hollywood police films, where two rival cops have to team up to stop a mastermind villain only to get more out of their partnership than they bargained for.
Bússi (Auðunn Blöndal) is known as Reykjavik’s super cop, he’s prepared to bend the rules to get the job done and he’s so tough he’s even got his own TV show with highlights of him beating up the bad guys. His partner Klemenz (Sverrir Þór Sverrisson) is not so super and as they go on a high speed chase after a bank robber he becomes hysterical (pointing out all the driving infringements Bússi is contravening). When the pursuit enters an off limits jurisdiction Bússi is not giving up the chase so easily and on entering the neighbouring zone of Gardabaer he goes head to head with Hördur (Egill Einarsson), a posey super-slick cop dressed in designer clothes and driving a flashy sports coupe. He’s the complete opposite to the dishevelled and unshaven Bússi and in spite of their jibing exchanges of macho bravado the two end up having to work together. Their partnership has already developed in an unexpected way bringing to the fore Bússi’s conflicting emotions as he struggles with his masculine super cop identity and his strange feelings for the openly pansexual Hördur.
The robberies are down to a criminal gang who are seemingly breaking into banks without taking anything. The English speaking Rikki (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) is the mastermind behind the break-ins who hams up the psychotic villain cliches and is partial to dropping a strange wildlife fact into the conversation whilst mimicking a terrible baddie’s version of a Clint Eastwood accent.
The backdrop to the action is the day’s hotly anticipated football match between Iceland and England’s women in a World Cup qualify. Besides becoming a central part of the plot, it is a notable inclusion in the script from the writer and director Hannes Þór Halldórsson that is a tacit reference to his previous career as a top international footballer (incredibly he played in goal for the Icelandic national side and here he shows his great versatility).
This Icelandic version of the light hearted spoof genre parodies the small city of Reykjavik against the all action US cop films whilst flipping the traditional action hero’s sexuality on its head. It can’t match the explosive special effects of its contemporaries but for mocking silliness it delivers by the spade load.
Interview with Trent O’Donnell the director and co-writer of ‘Ride the Eagle‘, a feel good comedy dealing with family, relationships and bereavement set in the wilderness of the Yosemite National Park. Shot during lockdown it brings together a comedy ensemble including Jake Johnson, D’Arcy Carden, J.K. Simmons and Susan Sarandon. Available on digital download from October.
Please introduce yourself and your film
My name is Trent O’Donnell and my film is called “Ride the Eagle”.
You are an experienced comedy writer and director. How does this film compare to your work to date?
Well it’s my first feature. So largely my work has been two fold, I work either writing things that I’m going to make, which is more in the UK / Australian model of writing and directing shorter run series of television, and then in America I did a lot of sort of guest directing when you go on to these bigger shows and you drop in do a couple of episodes and then you go away again. That was kind of my experience up until this point. This was the first time I’d done a bigger longer project and it took a pandemic to get me to actually do it but it is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
You co-wrote and directed the film. Do you see yourself as a writer or director?
I see myself very much more as a director than a writer. I love the process of writing and I love the ideas behind writing, but I in no way regard myself as a polished writer. Like everything I have written I have directed myself. So when I write scripts they are very much a working document, I’ve never really written polished scripts, which I’ve sent out into the world and asked people to give me money for them. It has always been that I have sort of written things that I know I’m going to be on set and I know that I will be making them. I regard myself as a rough writer but much more as a working director.
What is the directing process like for you normally?
Normally as a director, first and foremost, I love working with actors. I’d say I’m a performance based director. I think a lot of comedy directors are performance based but largely my work is sort of I’m taking a writer’s script and I’m breaking it down. There is a homework part of it where you are blocking the shots and you are working out how you actually want to shoot the thing. That to me is all the grunt work and when I’m actually on set, the sort of joy of it, is working with actors and working with great comedy actors and being able to get things on their feet, feel when it’s working and feel when it is not and sort of adjust accordingly as I go. I would say when you look at directors overall they usually fall into one of different categories. You could be a very technical director who is very good at doing action sequences and you plan everything within an inch of its life. I’d say that I’m not that, I’m much more pure comedy performance director.
The film is set in the wild frontiers of America and looks a perfect location for lockdown. How did you find it?
Well basically this film was born out of Jake Johnson and I. We met on New Girl. I was the producing director on New Girl. Jake and I became friends and we became writing buddies and we would send each other ideas, different ideas for shows and films and we actually, just before the pandemic, Jake and I tried to sell a TV show. We didn’t sell it and off the back of that, I think partly through the frustration of just having to try and develop and pitch and do all those sort of things, we thought maybe when the pandemic hit, it would be nice to just go and make something. So we set ourselves a date to shoot something, we just got together and we beat out the story, decided what we liked, narratively what interests us both and then we looked at, probably more of a practical sense than most films are made, we looked at what we had and what was available to us, and so like all those locations in the film were either my place or Jake’s place. He owned that cabin up near Yosemite. So we knew we had those things right from the start and on top of that Yosemite has always been one of my favourite places in the world, I just love that whole area.
The characters were a lot of fun, and it was a funny and relatable story but quite absurd and exaggerated too. Was there an element of truth in any of the characters or were they just fictitious?
There were definitely elements of truth, no one was based on anyone specifically, but I would say definitely elements from my extended family and definitely from Jake’s extended family and we kind of took all those little things from people we knew and sort of mashed them together without it being directly from my family of Jake’s. We always like comedy that is grounded more in truth and feels believable but within that you find ridiculous things in real life that feel absurd that you wouldn’t believe unless it really happened. So we definitely cling on to those kinds of things. We want it to feel relatable but also be funny and entertaining. We found like so many people, almost everyone has some sort of fracture in their extended family to some degree with these grudges that people hold etc and we found that was kind of a rich area.
I don’t want to give any gags away or any spoilers away. Could you give us a quick synopsis of the story?
The film is basically the story of Leif played by Jake Johnson who is estranged from his mother Honey played by Susan Sarandon. Honey passes away right when the film starts and basically Honey leaves Leif a conditional inheritance. She leaves him her cabin up near Yosemite but only on the condition that he completes this list of kind of obscure, weird tasks and it is all about her trying to pass on one final lesson to her son that she was estranged from and never really knew.
There was some lovely casting. How did it come about?
It was weirdly the easiest casting process I’ve ever been involved with, simply because of the time that we made it, which was a couple of months into lockdown and into covid and so everyone’s projects were put on hold, no one had anything on the horizon. We were a very bespoke, little, tiny unit, so we weren’t a massive filmset, we were only a handful of people, which meant we could all be tested and we could be contained and so the casting was simply: I had worked with J K (Simmons) before and I just simply emailed him and he responded that day and said, “Sounds fun.” We went directly to all of our actors. Susan we hadn’t worked with before but she was just the archetype in our head and we just thought we’d wildly just email her agent and say, “Is there just any way she would do this?” And two days later we were speaking to her on the phone. So it was weirdly a very easy casting process because no one had anything on at the time because usually when you try to cast these things, you get responses that yeah they’re tied up for the next 10 months. But we got everyone that we wanted right away. We wrote it with Susan in mind, not thinking she would do it. J.K I knew at least I could ask him. D’Arcy Carden is a friend who I had worked with before, so we got all these people that we had written for which was kind of incredible.
There was another star, the rescue dog Nora. Was she easy to handle on set?
She was great, she is a retired guide dog, she was very directable. The only thing with it was it was kind of scary because it was Jake’s real dog and Jake has 2 young daughters and they would have killed him if he had lost the dog. So we were constantly having to keep tracks of the dog making sure the dog was ok; only because Jake is scared of his daughters. But no she was great, she was really easy and probably the easiest animal I have ever worked with.
What advice would you give to anybody looking to direct or write something?
My advice is to always just go out and make things. It is very accessible now to get cameras, people make movies on their phones and such. I think it is just having an idea and certainly this was the case with this film. Just creating your own momentum and actually going through with it and doing it, is such a huge part of the process. For this movie we just set ourselves a date. We said alright we are not doing anything, this is when we are going to start shooting our film and we sort of worked back from that date. My advice is to always go and make things. It doesn’t matter how small a scale, create your own momentum and finish them.
Film: Ride the Eagle
Director: Trent O’Donnell
Stars: Jake Johnson, D’Arcy Carden, J.K. Simmons and Susan Sarandon
The Maltese Falcon (1941) is back in cinemas from 17th September to celebrate its 80th anniversary as part of the BFI’s Watching the Detectives season. Adapted from Dashiell Hammett’s novel it sees John Houston take his directional debut in this black and white film noir classic.
Private investigator Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and his partner Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) are asked to find a woman’s missing sister and Sam’s partner is quickly bumped off in the process. A straight forward missing person case quickly turns into a double homicide, in which Sam himself has become a suspect as we find out he has been having an affair with Mile’s wife. All this has happened without even a mention of the golden falcon described so dramatically in the opening credits. So ensues the investigation to find the murderer and also discover the whereabouts of this valuable bird that another visitor to the detective offices, Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), has sought the services of Sam Spade.
This is a Humphrey Bogart film through and through as he plays the tough wise-cracking San Francisco private dic, Sam Spade, whose only scruples are to get to the bottom of the case. A street smart detective on pally terms with the police who is able to mix it with the gangsters and still finds time to play hard and fast with the ladies. But Bogart is more than ably assisted throughout by a supporting cast that includes Mary Astor as the femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy, who switches between the fragile and needy to the manipulative and even violent in a heartbeat. Sydney Greensheet (appearing in his first film at the ripe old age of 61 years old) plays Kasper Gutman “the fat man” gangster head behind the search for the Maltese Falcon. He is like a cross between Orson Wells and Alfred Hitchcock all rolled into one with his gentrified but underhanded negotiations. Then there is Peter Lorre who puts in a fantastically kooky performance as Joel Cairo setting the bar high for the devious, conniving villain.
The film’s quirkiness, with some laughable scenes and sometimes dark dialogue, make you wonder if it is in spite of these or in lieu of these that it is considered such a classic. When Peter Lorre’s Joel Cairo first appears in the Private Eye’s offices you immediately know you’re in for a film noir treat with his shifty mannerisms; his subsequent disarmament and rearmament is risibly entertaining. At the beginning the mythical story introducing the Maltese Falcon, a long lost treasure of a golden, jewel-encrusted bird gifted by the Knights Templar, turns up much later as a “black figure of a bird” and looks not much more than a lump of lead. But it’s these kinds of things the audience are asked to acquiesce and indulge in as part of the storytelling process and have become archetypal components of film.
Widely considered a masterpiece and one of the earliest examples of film noir it is often placed at the top of film polls and was part of the first group of films to be put in the US National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and whilst now largely resigned to the black and white vaults for movie buffs to discover, its caricature performances will no doubt continue to massively influence filmmakers.
As for the Maltese Falcon, it got the last laugh. Several of the falcon props made for the film are considered some of the most expensive film props in the world valued at well over $1 million each, much much more than what the movie cost to make.
Picture Stories is a documentary film charting the rise of one of the UK’s earliest pictorial magazines, Picture Post, which was influencing British culture during the 30s through to the 50s. Picture Stories will be available on Digital Download from 30th September.
The documentary looks at the stories of the people behind this ground-breaking photographic magazine that brought in a new era of photojournalism showing not just a glamorous side of Britain but also the common everyday life stories which established a new dialogue for British working class culture. It features diary like extracts from its founder and editor Stefan Lorant and Tom Hopkinson, his eventual successor, as well as commentary from many experts in the field including the photojournalists working on the magazine, talking about how unique and influential it had been in the UK media.
Stefan Lorant was clearly a man on a mission, of Austro-Hungary decent, his father was a studio photographer and he himself had great success with photography and magazines in Germany before he had to flee the Nazis having been imprisoned for opposing Hitler. He found success in the UK as a magazine editor bringing his photographic style of journalism, which led to him launching Picture Post just before the outbreak of war. He had a vision to show the real lives of ordinary people, including the social class struggles of the time illustrated with a humanistic kind of photographic storytelling.
The photography (and the photographers) were central to the magazine’s success and was aided by the developments in photography at the time with the introduction of the Leica 35mm cameras meaning early street photography became much more practical. It shows some of the published features from the Getty archives like ‘What Makes Piccadilly’ (1954), picturing a day in the life of the famous London location and we are shown through some of the contact sheets from what would have been an exhaustive 2,000 frames, giving you some idea of the scale of its coverage.
For media enthusiasts of print journalism, the documentary makes for a fascinating insight into the inner workings of the magazine. It’s an interesting historical account of how its innovative practices and flagrant use of photography led the way in photojournalism.
When the Screaming Starts had its world premiere at Frightfest 2021 and will get its northern premiere at Grimmfest on 9th October. A comedy horror about a documentary filmmaker who has discovered a wannabe serial killer online and wants to capture his murderous rise to infamy.
Norman Graysmith (Jared Rogers) specialises in making ‘award-winning’ documentaries about people living on the fringes of society and has found the perfect subject in Aidan (Ed Hartland) who has a twisted dream to become a serial killer. A perfect person for Norman to film as unlike other true crime TV series this is his opportunity to document a serial killer as it happens.
Norman visits Aidan at his home and so begins the documentary inside a film format following Aidan’s crazy-eyed murderous ambitions through his interviews to camera. We see him lose his job at the cinema because he clearly likes horror films a bit too much as he stabs and twists along to the action. Claire is his similarly disturbed girlfriend with a ‘mutual appreciation for murder’. She tells us how she takes photos to capture people’s souls and keeps them in her scrapbook of death.
Aidan and Claire announce they are going to start a family à la Charles Manson and start the application process interviewing a collection of odd ball candidates to join them. The interview questions are fairly standard: what’s your job, who’s your favourite serial killer? Amongst the candidates being interviewed are a delightfully sinister looking pair of twins (Vår Haugholt and Ronja Haugholt), a food critic (Louise Ann Munro) with a preference for long pig (human flesh) and a yoga teacher (Kavé Niku) with broken English who has possibly turned up at the wrong place.
Once the recruits have been assembled they are moved into a house together to begin their training and first up is weapons training day, which continues with a silly retractable knife gag and sees Jack (Yasen Atour) the geezer trying to suffocate the confused yoga teacher with a plastic bag and then it’s not long before they are ready for their first murder spree together.
The mockumentary style parodies a number of reality shows with interviews telling each character’s back stories assisted by the voice over narrative from Norman himself who seems to be doing his best Louis Theroux impersonation but is as much like Josh Widdacombe. Fans of the UK sitcom ‘The Office‘ will be familiar with the same awkward chats and looks to camera and the opening sequence news clips have a ‘The Day Today‘ look about them with the same irreverent sense of humour as the news presenter announces, ‘When it comes to murder, somebody always ends up getting killed.’
It doesn’t match up to the vampire mockumentary ‘What We Do In The Shadows’ but there is still plenty to enjoy in some of the characters like Jack the deli fishmonger geezer with his lively market patter, Amy (Octavia Gilmore) the dominatrix who really ups the tempo to bring about a spectacularly violent killing spree, and Norman and Aiden’s character arcs eventually bring to the fore their own ambitious natures or lack of them.
As a comedy horror it has plenty of gags to keep audiences amused but without falling off your chair, meanwhile the gore is shockingly intense in parts but in small enough doses to maintain a sense of lighthearted comedic fun throughout the murderous premise.
Interview with Maciej Barczewski the director of The Champion of Auschwitz a historical portrayal of Prisoner 77 and his fight for survival in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland during the 2nd World War, in cinemas from 3rd September.
Please introduce yourselfand your film
Hello I’m Maciej Barczewski the director of The Champion of Auschwitz the film about Tadeusz Pietrzykowski the prisoner of Auschwitz concentration camp, who fought for his life with his fists, literally in the camp. It’s a true story about a true character, a former bantamweight boxing champion of Warsaw in 1937.
How did the story come to your attention?
I was reading one of the stories of Tadeusz Borowski, a famous Polish writer, who was a prisoner of Auschwitzand wrote a number of stories on this subject and in one of his stories he mentioned prisoner, number 77, who boxed the Germans in the camp, and that short sentence seemed very intriguing to me because the situation of a prisoner at the concentration camp whose literally beating Nazis seemed really intriguing. So I searched who was the prisoner number 77. It turned out he was one of the very first prisoners of the Auschwitzcamp who came in the first transported prisoners, then I contacted his family, his daughter, his wife and it turned out his incredible story hasn’t been turned into film yet. So I decided that I needed to be the person who brings this incredible story to screens.
Why did you want to make the film?
Well first of all I’m familiar with this subject matter because my grandfather was a prisoner of Auschwitzfor 3 years and second of all because this particular story in my opinion had and has great cinematic potential. It’s symbolic in its nature, like David and Goliath. A biblical story. Someone who is weak, who has not a chance of winning and surviving, wins and survives in the worst place in the universe, in the darkest of times. So that appealed to me a lot. The sole notion that even if we face the darkest of circumstances in our lives, we should never abandon hope because always there is a chance that we might win and survive, just like Teddy.
How did you achieve the cinematography in the boxing ring?
As a member of the audience I usually find watching people beating each other on the screen quite boring. So my assumption was to show these fights just if we were one of the prisoners standing near the ring and experiencing it first-hand. It was quite difficult actually because we were aware that if we were to show boxing as it looked like pre-war, for the contemporary audience, it would look artificial because boxing was much different back then. So we had to combine some elements of modern contemporary boxing that looks familiar for the audience with some elements of this pre-war boxing that is something different. I wanted these fights to be very intense and not too long because that’s how they look quite often in reality. Actually we just wanted to make them look as real as possible.
How much preparation went into the film?
The training of the actors took almost a year and a half. We were able to shoot all the fights without stunt doubles and actually even without any cuts. If we wanted to show the whole fight in one cut we could do that, we had such shots.
The longest preparation time was the physical preparation of the actors in particular of Piotr Glowacki, who played Teddy. He had to train for 14 months, 6 times per week and that of course included dieting, physical training, building his muscle mass and also boxing training, so that we would not need to involve stunt doubles or that he would be able to look convincing as the people’s boxing champion. So actually he has lost more than 30lbs for this role and he changed his body utterly, he started to move like a boxing champion, his whole physical transformation helped a lot to build this character.
Teddy is a small bantamweight. How did you cast him?
What some people advised me, of course we are casting a boxer he needs to be athletic, young, strong guy with a broken nose. But I read about Teddy and he looked nothing like that. He was relatively short, somewhat thin, somebody who actually you would not notice when passing by, but when you looked in his eyes you could see two clenched fists and Piotr actually is that kind of actor whose not very tall, he was not very athletic back then, but when you looked in his eyes you could see fire burning and that was something that I thought I needed to portray in this character convincingly on screen and I don’t think I was wrong.
How did you get the location?
We had to build a replica of the Auschwitzcamp because I think since the 1990s the museum of Auschwitzdoes not allow any filming done on the grounds of the museum and it is completely understandable. So we built our set designs near Warsaw.
How did you choose what themes you wanted to include or exclude in the film?
Actually when you are making a film based on a real character, real stories it is always the most difficult challenge. What to include and what to abandon? What to change because when we are talking about narrative rules of a feature film that is 1 hour and a half long, it needs to have a beginning and an end. It always forces us to change some chronology of facts, leave some people behind, create some people for example as a symbol of some society or meet the protagonists needs. These are all the changes that we need to make in order to make an involving picture, right, because what matters most is not the adherence to the sole historical facts because if we did it like that the film would quickly become a boring history lesson. What’s most important is the emotional truth of the character. If we can feel what the main character feels what he has experienced and what he has learned from the whole situation that is something that works best within the realm of feature film making.
The lighting was atmospherically both dark but quite light. Was this something you focused on?
Perfect, you have read our intentions correctly because that was the main subject of my conversations with the director of photography, Plociennik, because this story for me is a story of the darkness and the light and the journey from this utter darkness to the light that we see in the very last scene during the credits with all the children. So in all the scenes we tried to convey this duality of light and shadow and darkness because when you read the memories of the former prisoners of the camp of course it was the most terrible place to be in the darkest of times but, for example, in the realm of their real personal interactions quite a lot of this light showed up. Their humanity, urging for happiness. So I tried to show this a bit in our film. In a way this contrasts, for example the contrast of support in the concentration camp and the doom that is happening at the very same time, in the very same place. So that was something quite interesting for me from a cinematic point of view.
The story was full of poignant symbolism. What were the main messages of the film?
It’s not up to me now to explain all the symbolism it’s up to the audience to read their own interpretation but as I mentioned the whole story in a way is mythological. It is like these Greek ancient heroes who are fighting with other deities. So, in a way I am aware that for contemporary audiences, for a young audience, times of the 2nd World War are as distant as Greek mythology right now because they don’t know, they were born in the 21st century. This is a distant history. So, in a way I hope that this film will tell them something about this dark period of human history but also will tell them that on the grounds of this darkness, life will prevail because it has prevailed actually after the war, so that is one of the messages that I tried to convey in this movie.
Were you happy with the outcome and would you change anything?
I’m happy. Of course there is always this question what would I do if I had much more money? But on the other hand I don’t think this story actually needs some tremendous war battles or anything, it is not about that. It’s about an extra ordinary man in a very unusual circumstance and what I was trying to do was to focus the whole narrative of the movie on our main character, what he experiences and for that purpose we don’t need millions of dollars to show tanks or battlefields or anything like that. So after all, I don’t think I would change anything, I think it works as it should.
Film: The Champion of Auschwitz
Director: Maciej Barczewski
Stars: Piotr Glowacki, Jan Szydlowski & Grzegorz Malecki
Handsome available on digital release from 30th August is a touching documentary film about two brothers Nick and Alex who travel around the world to talk to other siblings, where one or the other lives with Down’s Syndrome, to find out how they have been tackling their lives.
It begins with Nick talking about his own thoughts and feelings towards having a Down’s Syndrome brother who now lives with him. His brother, Alex, is 23 years old but continues to need a lot of care every day to help him with the simplest of every day tasks and Nick is unsure what the future holds for them, especially if he takes over from his parents and becomes Alex’s full-time carer. His plan is to spend a year with Alex travelling the world to meet other Down’s Syndrome siblings to see how they are living their lives and also see if Alex can become more independent.
The trip includes the USA, India and Vietnam but the first stop is Cornwall, in the UK. Nick drives there in a hired camper van to stay at a campsite on the coast. We see the brother’s loving relationship but also the extent of Alex’s difficulties in particular his limited speech or even mobility. Tasks like going to the supermarket for camping provisions show the dependency of Alex on Nick for all the decision making, and any thoughts of independence look a long way away.
The next day they’re off to visit the first family, Holly and her brother Charlie, and so begin the emotional conversations with Nick talking about life with a Down’s Syndrome sibling. Holly is an attractive young girl who is very close to her brother with Down’s Syndrome, a term she finds difficult to use. The family own a large modern looking ranch and Charlie is living in his own annexed room next to the house with his own kitchen and bathroom, something Nick recognises as a good thing to provide as much independence as possible. There is plenty of common ground for them to discuss, and one of the first things is whether or not to use the ‘D’ word and the question of how aware their siblings are of having an ‘extra chromosome’ condition?
After they have left Holly and Charlie they head overseas to visit different cities around the world moving from city to city meeting siblings from different social backgrounds and from non-western backgrounds discovering the differences and similarities between their lives and even the offering of finding a cure.
It’s filmed in a handheld video diary style and Nick puts in a perfectly adjusted narrative performance throughout. He looks and even sounds just like the documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux, so much so that I thought he was actually a professional TV presenter. Alex on the other hand was very uncommunicative, which meant his involvement in the interviews was limited and you wonder just how much speech therapy would be necessary to get him to the same level. He still makes a game travel companion willing to bear all for the camera but he has to take a back seat to Nick’s almost incessant search for answers. Credit must go to the filmmaking brothers Luke and Ed White who directed and did the cinematography respectively and have managed to piece together a warmhearted filmic story for what is essentially just an alternative travel log on Down’s Syndrome.
Whilst unlikely to win any BAFTA awards for investigative journalism, it shows the brother’s heart-wrenching journey in search of ideas to help them make a better future together and whilst their Nomadland experience is only brief it is a fine example of how bringing disability to the fore can make compassionate, entertaining viewing.
The Pebble And The Boy will be released in cinemas nationwide from Friday August 27, it’s a retrospective tribute to mod culture wrapped up in a feel good story about a young lad wanting to take his father’s ashes from Manchester to Brighton on the back of his old mod styled Lambretta.
Due to his recently deceased dad’s obsession with all things mod, John (Patrick McNamee) his son, wants to take his ashes to Brighton on the scooter left to him after ‘the crash’. Fortunately with the bike still in practically mint condition except for the odd smashed wing mirror (but when your scooter has another 20, who cares?), John sets off for Brighton, despite his mum’s disapproval. He doesn’t get far before the bike breaks down but with the help of a pal of his dad’s, who curiously is also not keen for John to continue his journey either, it’s not long before he’s back on the road this time with the guy’s daughter Nicki (Sacha Parkinson), who he’s bonded with literally overnight. The swearing busty blonde modette lured by the tickets of a Paul Weller concert and the sense of adventure leads John astray for a succession of capers on their mission to Brighton. They meet with more of his dad’s old mod acquaintances including Ronnie (Ricci Harnett) and his wife (Patsy Kensit) and they all join in on the tributes to Phil and the good old mod days full of girls, scooters, fashion, music… and punch-ups. The guys get back on the road this time with Ronnie’s son Logan (Max Boast), who is a bit of a geezer wide-boy. Needless to say after numerous false starts and more peculiar meetings John and his gang make it to Brighton.
Written and directed by Chris Green, clearly a tribute to the mod era loaded with mod references including, like the most famous mod movie of them all Quadrophenia, a nod to the infamous bank holiday fights between the mods and the rockers at the Battle of Brighton Beach in the 60s. It’s nothing like as cult worthy as Quadrophenia, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a bit of a fizz about it. The film is driven along by Sacha Parkinson who plays Nicki, the ballsy northern lass, who has the unenviable task of trying to drag John out of his malaise and get him to Brighton.
Its baffling plot meanderings, extraordinary glib exchanges and terrible scooter riding can mostly be forgiven for its attempt to revive some mod nostalgia. All the iconic mod imagery is there with the scooters, the parkers and sports casual wear. Of course the sound track delivers its own tribute with plenty of hits from the Modfather himself Paul Weller in his various guises from the Jam to the Style Council and his solo stuff too including the title track “The Pebble and the Boy”, all ably supported by other mod bands of the era such as the Chords and Secret Affair. There are other nice touches thrown in that don’t necessary work either, like the cameo from people’s favourite “Mani’ of ‘The Stone Roses’ fame who comes to buy the scooter and is left without a deal by the doe faced John.
Mod fans are likely to enjoy this caper which is a great excuse to indulge in the memories and styles of the time in a present day story but its Richard Curtis like efforts of a twee light-hearted British road trip is at odds with the more subversive mod culture and sadly (spoiler alert) there were no backstage passes to the Paul Weller concert to make up for it in the end.
Film: The Pebble and the Boy
Director: Chris Green
Stars: Patrick McNamee, Sacha Parkinson, Max Boast, Patsy Kensit