Starring Anna Maxwell-Martin and Rachael Stirling, and written and created by Sophie Petzal, Hollington Drive is a four-part series that plunges us into the realms of domestic noir; that sub-genre that features people who seemingly have everything, live in suburbia but all is not as it seems.
In this instance, Theresa (Maxwell-Martin) and Fraser (Rhashan Stone), and Helen (Stirling) and David (Peter Macdonald) seemingly live a perfect life on a street in an unnamed town. They live in gorgeous houses, have barbecues and chat about the latest smart watches.
Their perfect existence is, of course, merely a veneer. Scratch a bit deeper and the two sisters – Theresa and Helen – seem to have… not quite a rivalry but a complex relationship. Helen (with Stirling looking more like her brilliant mother, Diana Rigg, with each passing role) is the headmistress at the local school and is confident and socially forthright, while Theresa is edgy, and on tenterhooks.
In fact, it feels like she’s on the brink of a nervous breakdown.
When she reluctantly lets her young son and Helen’s daughter go out to the park during the barbecue, her nerves are twanged even more. Especially when they don’t come back after their allowed time, and especially when Theresa goes to the park they’re supposed to be at and doesn’t find them.
After a frantic drive, she locates them at the edge of a forest park, and notes that they quickly throw something into the bin while she approaches. Her suspicions are raised.
There’s more bad news – they soon find out that a neighbour’s son has gone missing. Did Theresa and Helen’s children have anything to do with it? Why were they acting so suspiciously? Could this be a nightmare she felt in her gut that would happen?
It’s classic noir. Theresa is plunged into a world of suspicion and paranoia, and soon she’s watching her son like a hawk.
More revelations surface throughout the episode. Helen is having an affair with the missing child’s father, there are suspicions of abuse by the missing child’s parents, and Theresa, it’s revealed, is the survivor of rape. The result of the assault was young Ben, and she has always been worried that he carries within him the violence that his unknown father possessed (quite Happy Valley, that).
If all this seems ridiculous and far-fetched, it’s because it is. However, when you place all of these elements into the context of an intriguing domestic noir that supplies expertly dropped twists at regular intervals, it all makes sense. Kind of. But my goodness, this first episode really needed them because it was already starting to drift, and with characters you couldn’t get a hold on or like very much.
And this is always a by-product of domestic noir – how much can you possibly care about someone who lives such a comfortable life and in such comfortable surroundings.
This episode was very much a scene-setter, but Theresa’s edginess (Maxwell-Martin again in tip-top form) did rub off on the viewer and there was a pleasing low-key tension bubbling away in the background . Missing children? Your own child a potential monster? It’s the stuff of nightmares.
We’ll see how this one goes.