Hollington Drive, episode 1 review: nothing middle of the road about this suburban thriller
Nobody does suppressed fury quite like Anna Maxwell Martin, an actress who looks as if she wants to kill everyone. She deployed this to brilliant comic effect in Motherland and now she’s doing it for chills in Hollington Drive. It’s the kind of domestic thriller that ITV churns out by the dozen, but casting Maxwell Martin is a smart move because she’s such a good actress that she elevates the material.
Had this role gone to Joanne Froggatt or Katherine Kelly or any of ITV’s go-to leading ladies, perhaps it would have felt more workaday. But here you sit up and think: this’ll be worth watching.
A child called Alex goes missing. It’s not the son of Maxwell Martin’s character, Theresa, but a boy in his class who lives in a house across the way. The location, as the title suggests, is important.
It is one of those newbuild estates where Theresa and her partner, Fraser (Rhashan Stone) live in an executive-style home with the enormous kitchen and bifold doors now fitted as standard in all television dramas. The estate looks pleasant enough, but for some reason the characters speak of it as Shangri-La. “You’re thinking of leaving the Drive?” says one, horrified.
It takes a while to establish who is related to who here: Theresa and Fraser each have a child of their own, Fraser’s tactless brother is a house guest (who keeps making unhelpful comments about paedophiles), Theresa’s sister is headteacher Helen (Rachael Stirling).
As for the relationships between them: tricky to work out. Why is Theresa so deferential to Helen, and why does one sister have a neutral accent while the other sounds like Margaret Thatcher practising her RP? How can Fraser and Theresa be a couple when he’s so laid back and she’s so uptight?
The central mystery, at this early stage, is whether Maxwell Martin’s son, Ben (Fraser Holmes), played a part in the disappearance of Alex. Best to treat everyone with suspicion. It all feels satisfyingly twisty, particularly when – spoiler alert – Helen and the missing boy’s father (Jonas Armstrong) turn out to be having an affair.
There are oddities about the script, though. Why did Theresa drive to the park if it was so close? And is the characterisation of the victim’s family – a working-class Northern couple, who give a police press conference with echoes of the James Bulger case – a deliberate effort to bring class into the equation as a plot point, or just a thoughtless bit of writing? I was hoping that the show would be shown on consecutive days so I could find out more, but we’ll have to wait until next week for the second instalment.