What haunts you?
Whether it’s personal tragedy or mistakes that we’ve made along the way, most everyone has something in their lives that they wish they could forget. Sometimes, these are the moments that define us. And sometimes, they can be what destroy us.
Hulu’s miniseries The Sister tells the story of Nathan (Russel Tovey), a young man who seems to have his life together yet remains disturbed by the memory of the worst night of life: a party that led to the sudden death of a young woman. Now married to his beautiful wife Holly (Amrita Acharia), Nathan’s is reminded of his past when Bob (Bertie Carvel) arrives on his doorstep. As the only other person who knows what really happened that night, Bob and Nathan have kept their distance from one another since then. However, when Bob reveals terrifying information that threatens the life that Nathan has built for himself, the two must work together to keep the past from coming back to haunt them.
Adapted from his own novel Buried, Neil Cross’ The Sister is an intriguing supernatural mystery that draws you in more by what you don’t know than what you do. Whereas some writers struggle to bring their own work to the screen, Cross tells his story with a single-minded approach that keeps the story moving yet still feels like a slow burn. Perhaps most surprisingly though, without succumbing to visual gore or parlour tricks, Cross’ writing builds its tension through solid characters and slow reveals. For Cross, the most important ghosts in this story are the ones that haunt our minds as opposed to the ones that go bump in the night. (In fact, it’s worth noting that this may be the only supernatural film I’ve seen that doesn’t resort to showing any ghosts onscreen.)
While the entire cast is solid, the true star of the series is veteran actor Tovey, who lumbers around onscreen with menacing innocence. For any mystery narrative to work effectively, the story requires an actor who can keep the audience guessing about the nature of their virtue and Tovey’s work here is simply stunning. In every one of his scenes, Tovey bears the weight of Nathan’s secrets differently, whether it’s attempting to conceal them from his wife or attempting to convince his (potential) partner in crime, Bob of his innocence.
At the heart of The Sister lies a sense of the inevitability of truth. As he tries to move on from the events of his past, Nathan is never fully able to escape the shadows that follow him. When Bob arrives on his front door, the reunion reminds him that secrets can never stay buried forever (pun intended). But what is Nathan truly haunted by? Could it be that there really are ghosts that wish to speak the truth? Or is it merely his own guilt over what happened all those years ago? By ignoring the pain of his past, Nathan’s life of security instead becomes his own personal house of cards that could topple at any moment. As Nathan struggles to maintain his charade, truth becomes a ticking clock, counting down the seconds until his sins are eventually revealed.
Featuring solid writing and some incredible performances, The Sister is a well-told mystery that contains several surprises along the way. Well-written with intensity and focus, Cross’ series is willing to hold its cards closely yet rarely drags its heels. As a result, for those looking for something to binge, The Sister is absolutely worth digging up.
The Sister is available on Hulu starting Friday, January 22nd, 2021.