The Pursuit of Love

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Lily James in The Pursuit of Love.
Lily James in The Pursuit of Love.
Photo: Showmax


The Pursuit of Love




4/5 Stars


The story follows two cousins as they navigate their lives and their friendship while they follow different paths in life.


The role of women in society has always been dependent on men. The Pursuit of Love follows the lives of two cousins, who, even though they are extremely different, are forced into specific roles because of their gender. This adaptation of the Nancy Mitford novel is both entertaining and complex in how it tackles real-world issues in the particular time it is set and still today.

Author Mitford wrote The Pursuit of Love as a sort of satire of her own very eccentric family, and honestly google the Mitfords if you want to dive down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. The centre of The Pursuit of Love is the Radlett family, ruled by Uncle Matthew (Dominic West), a xenophobic tyrant who does not believe in the education of girls. We see everything through the eyes of our narrator Fanny Logan (Emily Beechum), a cousin of the family who visits every holiday. Fanny has a special connection with the second eldest Radlett daughter Linda (Lily James). Linda is obsessed with the idea of finding love and escaping her father's fortress. In the same way, Fanny wants to find stability in her life after her parents abandoned her to be raised by her aunt. We follow Fanny and Linda from adolescence to marriage and motherhood, which essentially brings them together at the end.

Written in 1945, the story is set just before World War II, but it also follows the flighty and free period of the roaring twenties and thirties. And while the story is supposed to be comedic, the series leans into the camp of the story, which I think is well done. Emily Mortimer does triple duty as the writer, director and stars as Fanny's mother, who is known simply as "The Bolter" for her tendency to leave her husbands. The series uses elaborate costumes, dance numbers and performances to depict the colour and the chaos of the Radletts and shows the allure of the outside life.

Lily James and Emily Beechum are perfectly cast as Linda and Fanny. James has the enthusiastic, effervescent nature of the romantic Linda. You feel drawn to her whenever she is on screen. As the audience, you can easily see the hold she has on the other characters. Beechum plays Fanny as the serious, straight man in a family of eccentrics. Her portrayal of the character is so subtle, so observational, but she still feels like a three-dimensional character with her own motivations and emotions.

My favourite of the cast is easily Andrew Scott as the Radlett's neighbour, Lord Merlin. Merlin's introduction is done with a dance number to Dandy in the Underworld by T-Rex, and it is sensational. The character is meant to be a bohemian who Uncle Matthew does not approve of but becomes a sort of mentor to Linda. He plays the role with the exact amount of camp and dramatics to make the character an absolute delight. Other standouts include Dominic West as Uncle Matthew, who seems to lean into the ridiculousness of Matthew's antics, and Emily Mortimer as the Bolter, who pops in and out of Fanny's life almost as a warning.

Ever since Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, there has been a trend of period pieces having conventional feels to them. From The Favourite to Dickinson to The Great, and more recently Bridgerton. There is a splash of the 21st century in these pieces that makes them feel relatable, fresh and perhaps a bit controversial. The soundtrack features pop-rock music, jazz and anachronistic bands such as The Who, Sleater-Kinney as well as Nina Simone. But I love that about the series; it shows that these characters (especially Linda) are women ahead of their time. Linda would have lived during the 90s punk rock era. But it also helps to make sure that the music suits the characters' emotions in the scenes instead of being a stickler to the time.

Linda has a line that paraphrases a Simone de Beauvoir quote. "I don't think we're born women at all. It's like our wings get clipped, and then everyone's so surprised when we don't know how to fly." And I think that summarises The Pursuit of Love so well. It shows the struggle of women (albeit comedically) to fit into a niche that the world has created for them, and how they are cast aside when they don't fit into that niche. Linda is seen as a cautionary tale. She marries and divorces, neglects her child and becomes a mistress, but also Fanny is envious of Linda's life because she is living a much more fulfilling life than Fanny's conventional one. Linda might get cast aside by society, but in the end, she lived a life of love, beauty and freedom, which is more than most women back then or today could hope for.


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