Tuesday 11 September 2012

TV Review: Leaving (ep 1, ITV1)

The capable Julie (Helen McCrory), manager of weddings at a swish-ish country resort, strides purposefully around her little empire, tenderly observing exchanges of vows, counselling reluctant brides, and generally radiating pride and pleasure in her profession. Julie seems rather less sure-footed at home, though, where she lives with an affable-seeming spouse, Michael (Sean Gallagher), and two kids, one of whom is embarking on her first romance. The character’s mild sense of dissatisfaction with her lot leads her into a relationship with Aaron (the Eddie Redmayne-evoking Callum Turner), a young man twenty years her junior who ends up working at the hotel.

Concluding at the pivotal moment when the pair’s relationship turned sexual, Tony Marchant’s new three-part drama Leaving got off to a strong and striking start last night. The series isn’t, thankfully, a Brit take on the Kristin Scott Thomas-starring French flick, directed by Catherine Corsisni, whose moniker it shares, and which also dealt with a disruptive affair. Corsini's film, which I recently re-watched and rather changed my mind about, started smart and ended dumb, but the indications are that Marchant's Leaving might prove more substantial.

In a slightly barmy Radio Times piece, Alison Graham critiqued the series for not delivering on the salacious promise of its premise or for “giving Fifty Shades of Grey anything to worry about.” (WTF?) The estimable Mr. Marchant operates in an altogether classier mode and, benefiting from sleek direction by Gaby Dellal, the opening episode certainly proved gripping. The social details all feel right and, a couple of contrived narrative turns notwithstanding, the scenes had fresh, surprising details and quiet, watchful moments that added texture and nuance. The supporting cast (which includes Deborah Findlay) has yet to make its mark, but what counted the most in last night’s episode was Helen McCrory’s unerring ability to pull you into Julie’s dilemma, communicating every shade of excitement and guilt, pleasure and panic, that the character feels. Seeing McCrory here made me think - not for the first time - how much better Terence Davies’s film of The Deep Blue Sea would have been with her in the lead; let's hope a production of that play is in her future. And let's also hope that Leaving makes good on its promise, avoiding the slide into unconvincing melodrama that Corsini's film couldn’t finally resist.

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