ITV’s Hollington Drive – so named for the seemingly idyllic suburban street it’s set upon – is the sort of emotional thriller that packs a serious punch, thanks to its slow-building tension and overwhelming tapestry of deep-seated trauma, claustrophobia, and sinister secrets.
It all begins on a balmy evening, when Theresa (an always-perfect Anna Maxwell Martin) invites her sister, Helen (Rachael Stirling), and her family over for an end-of-a-summer barbecue.
For a while, everything is idyllic. But when Theresa’s 10-year-old son, Ben, asks to play in the nearby park with his cousin, Eva, the tone of the evening shifts. Dramatically.
When the children don’t return on time, Theresa goes in search – much to the exasperation of her partner, Fraser (Rhashan Stone) – and finds the children on the edge of a woodland area, where they appear to be fighting. Immediately, she suspects that something truly terrible has happened. And, later that night, her worst fears are seemingly confirmed; another little boy in the community has gone missing.
As each new detail in the police investigation is announced, Theresa – who has long been worried about Ben’s increasingly unusual behaviour and frightening mood swings – grows more and more terrified that her little boy has done the unthinkable. That a dark event from her past has shaped him into… well, into the sort of monster who might kill another.
Next door, meanwhile, it quickly becomes clear that the investigation has rattled Helen, too; as the headmistress of the local school, she feels responsible for the boy’s disappearance. For the safeguarding of his distraught parents. For her own daughter’s shock and horror. For her husband’s oddly disquieting disinterest in the whole matter – and in his marriage, come to that. So, when Theresa comes to her and shares her suspicions about Ben, Helen is quick to shut her the hell down. She prefers her life to be impeccable, and she really doesn’t want or need another connection to this tragic mess.
It’s an incredibly intriguing mystery, no doubt about it. Indeed, Hollington Drive feels like a nightmarish blend of Broadchurch, The Slap, and We Need To Talk About Kevin – for all the best reasons. Still, though, the most compelling factor of this must-watch ITV drama is the complex relationship it spins between the sisters at its centre.
Essentially, our sisters have the potential to be our greatest friends and rivals – a strange paradox that is expertly handled in Hollington Drive. Fraser worries that all of the compliments Helen lavishes upon Theresa are patronising; that all of the attention she shows her sister hides some darker ulterior motive.
Theresa, however, counters that, while this may be true, Helen is the one person who loves her and understands her better than anyone else. Who was there for her when she needed her most (yes, a traumatic event from the sisters’ shared past binds them ever closer together; what of it?). Who will always, always, always be a part of her life, no matter what.