Age-gap love story finds refreshingly modern path
It's more than four decades since the nervous Benjamin Braddock was seduced by the older Mrs Robinson in The Graduate. That relationship combo of older woman and younger man is still rarely explored in contemporary drama. When it is, the woman is typically cast as comical predatory cougar and the whole thing is seen as a bit of a joke.
I feared this might be more of the same, but Leaving actually offers something rather refreshing – a natural, if potentially dangerous chemistry between two people who happen to be a 44-year-old working class married mother of two teenagers, who organises weddings at a country house hotel, and a jobless graduate, 20 years younger, who still lives with middle-class mum and dad.
It's penned by screenwriter Tony Marchant whose track record includes Garrow's Law and Holding On. Julie Ranmore (Helen McCrory, who you might recognise from We'll Take Manhattan or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) and Aaron Simmons (TV newcomer Callum Turner) meet when his ex-girlfriend gets married to his elder brother.
Julie is a romantic perfectionist, mouthing the vows of love as they are exchanged by bride and groom and organising every tiny detail with care, precision and pride.
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Aaron is immediately attracted to her when she finds him sitting outside the hotel after the wedding, drunk and sorry for himself.
It is Aaron who pursues Julie, to the point of getting a job at the hotel just to be close to her – a position he genuinely enjoys.
She and her husband, Michael, still get along, but the passion has gone out of their marriage. How could Julie resist Aaron's boyish but determined charms? We left them after their first intimate encounter in a hotel bedroom where the age difference melted away. But work status, infidelity and family responsibilities will doubtless rear their heads in the next two episodes. I'm hooked.