Based on a novel by Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love was a lavish period miniseries from the BBC and Amazon Studios as it explores the lives of two young women during the Interwar period.
Linda Radlett (Lily James) and Fanny Logan (Emily Beecham) are cousins and best friends. Linda is a romantic who has a troubled love life. She gets married, has affairs, and enters politics during this turbulent time. Fanny is a well-read young woman who ends up marrying and settling down. Their relationship becomes strained during this period.
The Pursuit of Love was an ambitious series from the BBC and Amazon. It had an all-star cast and served as Emily Mortimer’s directing debut. What was delivered was a light and breezy series that also touched on some serious subject matter.
Mortimer was influenced by the works of Wes Anderson, using many of his techniques. The series was told from Fanny’s perspective. The narration was used to tell the backstories of characters and their current situation. This could have been dry and boring, but the writing and direction ensured that there was plenty of humor through the dialogue and framing. It made The Pursuit of Love an entertaining watch.
The use of the Anderson styling declined as the series progressed. This was due to the series becoming more focused. The aim of the first episode was to introduce the characters, the second looked at Linda’s failing marriage and her relationship with a communist, and the final episode was about her relationship with a French aristocrat and her second pregnancy just as the Second World War starts. However, the source novel was only 247 pages and at times it felt like the series was stretching itself thin. Yet it was still better than the last time I saw the BBC adapt a short novel into a three-part series (i.e. War of the Worlds).
The heart of the series was the relationship between Linda and Fanny and how they drift apart. As teens they were close, almost like sisters. But as they got older the relationship becomes strained because Linda flaked on her responsibilities. Fanny has to settle down and start a family whilst Linda leaves her. To Fanny, Linda reminded her of her mother, a woman that constantly left Fanny. Despite their issues they were still family.
The series also looks at wider issues because of the time it took place. This was a period where society was rapidly changing. This was a time where World War One was fresh in people’s mind, fascism and communism was on the rise, and the Great Depression afflicted the world. The series touches on a lot of this. Linda’s father was a War Veteran who hated foreigners and believed in status and that women are just meant to be wives and mothers. This runs into conflict with Fanny who was educated and his children rebelling in their own way, like going to Hollywood or fighting for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.
Linda’s relationships reflected different political views and social statuses. Linda’s husband, Tony (Freddie Fox) was an upper-middle-class banker and was a Conservative MP. Some of his family members were sympathetic to the Nazis. Christian (James Frecheville) was the Communist who offered Linda intellect, but she was out of her depth when she had to partake in humanitarian work. Fabrice (Assaad Bouab) was the French aristocrat that was able to give Linda passion and luxury just as World War Two was about to start.
The series did have a great cast. Whilst Lily James and Emily Beachem were fine leads, the scene stealers were Dominic West and Andrew Scott. They had some of the funniest lines and played some of the colorful characters in the series. Mortimer was also a delight in her small role as The Bolter, Fanny’s mother. She was so selfish that she will be a character audiences will love to hate.
The Pursuit of Love was a jolly series that fans of British period dramas will be satisfied with. It stands out because of its humor and visual style which helped make the series seem like an indie film.