Monday, June 05, 2023

Somewhere Boy, on Hulu

Yes, Danny's father made a lot of mistakes, but at least he introduced his son to a lot of great classic films and music. Nothing too explicit, of course. To say Steve was an over-protective parent would be an understatement. Sadly, the reasons for his behavior are understandable, but that does not make them any less detrimental to Danny’s psychological development in writer-creator Pete (not Peter the Hobbit guy) Jackson’s eight-part Somewhere Boy, which premieres Wednesday on Hulu.

When he was still infant, Danny’s mother was killed in a hit-and-run accident. The negligent driver also killed a good part of Steve at the same time. Breaking ties with his sister Sue, Steve raised Danny in an isolated country cottage, brainwashing him to believe only dangerous monsters lived outside their house, since they were mostly likely the last people on Earth left alive.

Steve was definitely moody, but he tried be a loving father. Danny idolized him, believing he kept them alive through his hunting and foraging. He also enthusiastically adopted Steve’s tastes in films and music (including Hoagy Carmichael). Naturally, his father’s suicide hit Danny hard. Fortunately, Steve left word with Sue to come looking for Danny before he died.

Danny breaks Sue’s heart, for multiple reasons, but it is hard to communicate with the stunted and withdrawn teen. Her own teenaged son Aaron can hardly relate to Danny and he resents having to share his room with his weird new cousin. The more Danny hears about his dad, the more awkward Sue and Aaron feel around him, but at least he develops a goal. He is determined to find the “monster” who killed his mother and make him pay.

Although there is some menace surrounding Danny’s hunt for the hit-and-run driver,
Somewhere Boy is even less of a thriller than Sean Penn’s vengeance-seeking character-study The Crossing Guard. Jackson is much more concerned with Danny and his prospects for meaningful healing. There is a lot of forgiveness in the series, both for Steve and Sue’s family, who struggle with Danny. It is easy to see why. Unfortunately, the scenes involving the guilty driver are a bit anti-climactic and frankly disappointing. Yet, the honesty of the extremely dysfunctional family drama largely outweighs such missteps.

Lewis Gribben is terrific as the twitchy, anti-social Danny, precisely because his performance is so tightly restrained and inwardly focused. Samuel Bottomley is also quite remarkable portraying the sullen Aaron, who starts to come out of his own emotional shell as he comes to understand how much damage life has done to Danny.

Jackson’s writing is mostly quite sensitive and compelling, but he takes Danny on a sexual detour in the seventh episode that makes little sense in terms of narrative or character development. In fact, it seems deliberately crafted to keep the woke jackals satisfied. It is a shame, because the rest of
Somewhere Boy (maybe 90%) maintains a consistency of tone that is so mournfully resonant.

Somewhere Boy is quite a powerful exploration of grief and recovery. In many ways, it represents a throwback to vintage kitchen sink realism, except it is predicated on some rather extraordinary circumstances and often features Danny's delusional visions of "monsters." Recommended for the accomplished work of the young cast, Somewhere Boy starts streaming Wednesday (6/7) on Hulu.