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.
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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.
Watch the trailer for Hollington Drive below:
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.
Research shows that from the time they are born, our sisters are “our playmates, collaborators, role-models, protectors and sources of pride and envy,” Elanna Clayton explains in an article for Minds Matter.
“They are the only people that will be with us from childhood to the end of our lives, which means they will be one of the greatest influences on our development and mental health.”
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.
Still, though, there is a certain brittle quality to the sisters’ relationship; on the surface, they are incredibly close. When they are alone, however, tempers fly, cracks form, and an imbalance of power seemingly becomes all too apparent.
Well, it’s worth remembering that Deborah South Richardson, a psychology professor at Georgia Regents University, previously hypothesised that people are directly aggressive to their siblings because they feel they have sturdy, stable relationships with them, not poor ones.
“Direct aggression with siblings, either verbal or physical, might be a safety issue,” Richardson explains. “As in, I can confront my sibling, and I’m safe when I do it. I don’t need to be indirect. I don’t need to be passive.
“My sibling will always be my sibling.”
It’s rare to see a sibling relationship brought to life on screen in such a realistic manner, and the love and madness between Helen and Theresa will undoubtedly prove one of Hollington Drive’s greatest draws, week after week.
This writer, for one, can’t wait to see how their relationship evolves over the next few episodes, because I have a feeling it has the potential to unlock all of the show’s secrets before the credits on the finale roll…
Hollington Drive airs at 9pm on Wednesdays via ITV.
The first of the four-episode drama is available to stream now via ITV Hub.
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.