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Leaving, ITV1 | reviews, news & interviews

Leaving, ITV1

Leaving, ITV1

Screenwriter Tony Marchant explores frustrated lives and lost opportunities

Ill-fated infatuation for Julie (Helen McCrory) and Aaron (Callum Turner)

The uproarious success of Downton Abbey, now firmly established as one of Britain's great national pastimes, seems to have had the happy effect of persuading ITV1 that it must make more drama. Thus, the autumn of 2012 has been ushered in by new ITV dramas swirling about our ears like tumbling leaves, from The Last Weekend and The Scapegoat to the comeback of Downton itself.

More interestingly, the channel has also served up a batch of conspicuously female-centric pieces, albeit with mixed results. The murdered-girl story A Mother's Son felt like a series brutally curtailed by chainsaw, losing half the plot in the process, while The Bletchley Circle (about a group of brainy women from the fabled wartime code-breaking establishment trying to cope with the male-dominated tedium of Fifties Britain) was a great idea sorely in need of more time to develop. Meanwhile, Sheridan Smith continues to re-enact the chequered career of a train-robber's wife in Mrs Biggs.

Best of the lot has been Leaving, which starred Helen McCrory as Julie, the 40-something events organiser of a large country hotel in Cheshire who tumbles helplessly into an affair with 25-year-old Aaron (Callum Turner), a somewhat existential ex-student. It might very well not have worked at all, foundering on a combination of improbability and cliche, but thanks to skilful writing by Tony Marchant interpreted by a mostly-impressive cast, the end result was both touching and thought-provoking.

Having McCrory in the lead gave it a major leg-up. It's difficult to imagine who else might have spanned the polarities of the role to better effect, from the focussed, tightly-buttoned professional woman by day who turns into a dogsbody wife-and-mother by night, then suddenly finds herself behaving like a lovestruck teenager in the grip of raging hormones she'd forgotten she ever had. Perhaps it was true that, as her sarcastic Welsh boss Hugh (Celyn Jones, pictured above with Turner) told her, she'd been "a silly cow", but the more you saw of her home life with her frustrated husband Michael (Sean Gallagher) and pair of stroppy, sullen teenage children, the more sympathetic you felt to her doomed but exhilarating fling.

Marchant's theme was unfulfilled potential, viewed from various perspectives. Julie, already highly effective in her work, would clearly have been capable of far more if not chained to the weak and petty Michael (pictured slapping his wife, below), himself prey to hopeless fantasies of bedding younger women. Aaron, meanwhile, seemed to have the capacity to achieve almost anything he could be bothered to put his mind to. Since Julie was in catering, he applied for a job with her employers, and was soon being lined up for fast-track promotion and a posting to London. However, since this would have meant being apart from her, he chucked it in and opted for amateur car-washing instead. 

Marchant extracted some clenched-teeth mirth from the shocked reaction of Aaron's affluent parents on discovering that his new girlfriend was closer to their age than his own, but it soon became apparent that Aaron's mother (Deborah Findlay) was feeling more than a modicum of envy for the way Julie had thrown caution to the winds and abandoned her tomb-like marriage. Her husband (Nick Dunning) insisted to Aaron that they were happy. "Yeah?" his son retorted. "Then why don't I want to be more like you?"

Eventually gravity won, as it tends to, and Aaron found himself on the outside of Julie's net curtains as she sat round the dinner table with her ostensibly reunited family. It was the kids wot done it, as a tearful Julie explained:"You can leave your husband - you can't leave your children." Spinning forward a few months, Leaving ended where it came in, with Aaron attending a wedding at Julie's hotel, except this time with a glamorous young girlfriend on his arm. Julie managed to raise a stoical smile, but you could feel her drowning inside.


'Leaving' ended where it came in, with Aaron attending a wedding at Julie's hotel, except this time with a glamorous young girlfriend on his arm

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worst ending ever... i hate gravity

I hated the Ending, Felt like I had wasted my time watching it.

ITV back in the game of real drama series with heart!

Did like the ending, most probable one. And I don't think her face showed that "she was dying inside". She had rediscovered her independence. Two chapters closed.

I hated the ending too, and thought it was a waste of my time, like the other commentor. I wanted nothing more than for Aaron to open the door onto their new life together. After all that had gone on, it was nonsensical for him to ignore her. Completely peed off with what I see as a big fat mistake in the writing here.

This was a great watch. The chemistry between the two leads was so believable. He especially did such a great job for such a young actor. Only mistaken casting was the hotel manager in my view. Yes, I was gutted by the ending, however, It was the most likely in 'real life'. But, dont we watch these drams for a bit of escapism,,?. I have a feeling the alternative ending would have been the most popular.

I'm with Lianne here. The ending may have been depressing, but it did have the virtue of being dramatically plausible.

While I tend to agree with those who expected a plausible ending a bit of back story might have helped. I'd like to think that perhaps Julie kept the job but ditched the husband, made peace with the kids and focused on the career. A few years on, when negative equity is no longer be a problem, she divorces the husband, the house is sold and she meets someone younger, but a bit closer to her own age. Perhaps then the smile at the end is acknowledging something that might have been, and realising that the relationship with Aaron was a catalyst to Julie finding the courage to chose a better life.

i totally agree with all of the above, rubbish & disapointing ending. xx

I was so disappointed with the ending, it just left it hanging. I had enjoyed all the episodes so much and I would have like to have seen Aaron and Julie end up together, maybe series 2!!! The hotel manager was the worst character in it!!

Totally Agree...brilliant drama but pathetic ending

But it's a real ending .in real this is mostly how it would end

I agree that it was a fantastic drama but badly let down by the ending. I have mailed itv suggesting where they went wrong, and maybe if other people do too we might get the ending we would rather see.

Hi .its real .this way but me to I would like to see the wife happy and to stay with him but she has no where to go and she can not afford to either ,that's real life ,but at the end he has a new girl and in time he will love her just as much as his x , when some one gets some one much younger its also like a chance to start over again most cases it ends like this in real,.but if the women is younger then it can end with man leaving .hope ok to reply

Totally agree that the ending made the whole 3 part drama a waste of time watching. I felt it was going to be a bad ending but hoped i would be wrong. But what a fantastic pair of actors - we need a Leaving 2 so we can feel life does not always end tragically and love still exists.

This is not meant to be escapism or living vicariously through itv dramas. Read 50 shades if you want that. This was real heart felt life lessons. An artistic reminder that anyone can get it wrong but all actions have consequences. I think the ending was as poetic, romantic and real as the rest of it. She grew balls. A lesson for us all.

I'm glad I wasn't the only one disappointed at the ending (as seen by near unanimity) . It's not so much living vicariously through itv dramas but rather appreciating the story and still not getting the ending. It's because I can empathize that I dont really get why he'd give up when hes clearly infatuated and in love with her. Then to add in some new girl at the end and of course at the same hotel just seemed a bit overdone. I suppose youre a glutton for unnecessary grittiness as much as I am for a realistic ending. Still I better go read badly written smut for having an opinion

When u say you don't get why he gave up... Even I was getting sick of her back n forth indecisiveness, stay-go. I think he reached his breaking point when she chose family over him. There was a point where I thought he might tell her his mom thought she was courageous. All women in that sittuation need just that little extra push. Social rules are tough to break and can be messy. I bet Aaron having lived thru what he already has will let the little Jewish girl next to him at the wedding go before they get serious because he knows the end already when the spark goes out. I was glued and generally enjoyed the cinematic effort.

I was not watching this for escapism, but wanting a happy ending does not mean it is a Hollywood ending, they do happen, this story is very close to my own story and mine did end with the ending everyone wanted. There seems to be this acceptance that dramas have to end as badly for the main character as possible to make it real life so we can all learn lessons. What was the lesson to be learned? Not to love, stay in a relationship that is destroying you on the inside because that's the right thing to do? The only thing the characters did wrong in this show was to give up on each other at the end. Also no one wants a painting by numbers ending but it would be nice to have some closure to the character of Julie, all we are left with is a smile at the end with no explanation of what has happened in her life since that disappointing scene at the door. To leave the main characters story unfinished in a one off drama is poor.

I agree this was a beautiful well acted drama - which explored mixed age relationships but which let itself down at the end- such a pity,for this was a missed opportunity to explore the changing needs, wants and level of expectations women and men have for love in 2012. disappointing as the ending seemed out of place for 2012. The lesson seemed to be women of a certain age should know their place which is firmly in the tradition of self sacrifice, misery, and a low level of personal chose or happiness in life .

I am disappointed at the ending too. What is the meaning of 'marriage'? Sacrificing your happiness? Going back to a place where people take you for granted?

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