TV & Movies

The Reason Somewhere Boy Feels So Real Is Actually Quite Dark

“It’s terrifying, growing up.”

by Sophie McEvoy
Originally Published: 
Lewis Gribben as Danny in 'Somewhere Boy'
Channel 4

Written by Pete Jackson, Channel 4's new eight-part drama Somewhere Boy tells the story of Danny, played by Lewis Gribben, a nervous 18-year-old forced to venture into the world for the first time after a childhood spent in isolation. Danny’s father, Steve, played by Rory Keenan, practically holds his son hostage in a misguided bid to keep him safe from the “monsters” that might otherwise take him away. Harrowing and tender in equal measure, the show feels unequivocally tender, but is Somewhere Boy based on a true story?

The premise certainly isn’t anything new – think of Room and Dogtooth, for example. And while show creator Pete Jackson didn’t grow up in isolation, he did base Somewhere Boy in some truth. "People can fall through the cracks, particularly if you eschew social media or any contact with the outside world," he told Channel 4. There are also plenty of stories of people being imprisoned by their parents, guardians, or carers. "Abuse is always front and centre," Jackson said. He also cited examples of people living off-grid – specifically the 2011 documentary Dreams Of A Life about a woman who was found in her flat five years after she passed away when questioned about whether audiences would think the story is believable.

Speaking to the Guardian, Jackson also said he did put in some of his own experiences into the show, like the touching scene of Danny and his father listening to records. Jackson's dad had a Technics MK 1 record player that "had pride of place in the living room," he said, fondly. “Me and him used to sit and listen to records together.” Which explains why the scene feels so sincere; because they are rooted in a real experience.

He went on to reveal that he dug the record player out of his dad's garage and continued the tradition with his own son. “It brought me back to that time. How fleeting these innocent, safe moments in childhood are. How fearful we are of them ending – and what we might do to extend them.”

This idea was the basis of the show's concept, he said. "What if you did everything you could to stop those safe little fictions from ending? And what would happen if a father took this way too far?" In that way, Somewhere Boy acts as “a kind of cautionary tale," he explained, and an "allegory of growing up." Ultimately, it’s about a father’s desire to slow time and keep his child safe. “It’s terrifying, growing up,” he points out.

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