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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Leaving, ITV

Over the last few years I’ve been longing for ITV to return to their drama heyday and in the last few weeks it would appear they’ve been listening to pleas.  Every week has seen one new drama after another start.  Monday saw the beginning of a new 3-part love story  from acclaimed screenwriter Tony Marchant.  Leaving has a very simple premise as an under appreciated woman in her mid-forties finds herself falling for an attractive twenty-something year old boy she meets at a wedding reception.  Julie (Helen McCroy) lives for her job as catering and events manager at a country house hotel.  She gets a sincere pleasure from making sure every aspect of the bride's wedding day is memorable and special. Helen McCroy’s portrayal of Julie made her completely believable. She's a woman who mouths the words as the registrar reads the vows, a woman who knows how to make her guests happy and a woman who has reached a crossroads in her life. 

Of course you can tell right from the off where the story is going it just takes its sweet time getting there. We meet Aaron (newcomer Callum Turner) at his brother’s wedding. His brother is marrying Phoebe, a girl Aaron had gone out with for two years before deciding to dump him for his brother. Aaron appears to have reached a dead end. His love life is non-existent, he’s been unable to find work since getting his degree and his home life with his parents is strained and tense. When Aaron meets Julie there’s an initial spark and as an audience member you know where you’re going.

If I’m honest I didn’t get drawn in by Leaving to start with. It seemed to plod along and I found myself willing it to move their relationship on faster, we all knew it was going to happen so let’s have it happen! Helen McCroy’s performance was flawless. I completely believed her in the role as a confused, torn and conflicted woman who struggled with feelings of love against her responsibilities at work and home.  It took me quite a bit longer to warm to Callum Turner as her young love interest. His character seemed numb and his acting occasionally wooden. To its credit Leaving felt true to life and warm and never veered off down any sleazy or uncomfortable paths. The relationship was portrayed believably and delicately and as I happened to be watching this with my parents that was something I was really thankful for.

I’ve long been a fan Marchant’s writing and although I had initial problems with it I found myself being slowly drawn in. There were a few scenes that I found a little hard to believe, like the two of them coincidentally ending up in the same hospital room on the same night at exactly the same time and some of the dialogue verged toward corny but on the whole Leaving delivered and left me eager for more. The idea of a older married woman falling for a younger man may not be an original concept but I've faith Marchant's scripts will offer a new take on the story.

I suspect now their love story has finally began to gather pace that the rest of the story will tackle how their relationship affects the loved ones around them . McCroy and Turner have a definite on-screen chemistry and the scenes between the two were the most interesting so it’ll be interesting to see where we’re taken when their relationship is inevitably thrust into the spotlight.

ITV deserve a lot of credit for delivering such high quality, different dramas so far this Autumn and whilst I appreciate Leaving had its faults, it was still a notch above some of their efforts in years gone by and goes to show how ITV can still deliver the goods when it comes to drama. 

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