The Pursuit of Love is a playful period drama series about love

The Pursuit of Love -- Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Amazon Prime Video
The Pursuit of Love -- Courtesy of Robert Viglasky/Amazon Prime Video /

Early in the first episode of the new Amazon Prime Video period drama The Pursuit of Love, Fanny says that Linda is “not only my favorite cousin but then and for many years, my favorite human being.” The close relationship between the two women is the true heart of this three-part television miniseries based on the 1945 novel by Nancy Mitford.

Written and directed by Emily Mortimer, Fanny (Emily Beecham) and Linda (Lily James) are cousins who are very different from each other. While Fanny is well-educated, grounded, and practical, Linda is “a wild and nervous creature, full of passion and longing.”

Mortimer’s directorial debut shows great promise for her skills in the director’s chair. The way that the series pokes fun at the upper class with their overbearing parents and zeal for fox-hunting is reflected in the style of the piece. There are cheeky title cards introducing each character, freeze frames, and occasional black and white footage to introduce a new place or topic.

It has a similar mix of light-hearted humor and frivolity and real, emotional moments as last year’s Emma. by Autumn de Wilde. Every time that it feels like it might veer into being too over-the-top, it is reined back in.

The Pursuit of Love — Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video
The Pursuit of Love — Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video /

There are some issues with the pacing of the series over the course of its three hour-long episodes, but overall, Mortimer’s work is very impressive.

Amazon’s The Pursuit of Love is a touching tale of female friendship

We first find Fanny and Linda at Alconleigh, the estate of Linda’s wealthy family, where Fanny has been sent to spend the holidays. Fanny is being raised by her practical Aunt Emily (Annabel Mullion) because her own mother is much more interested in flitting from one affair to another to pay attention to her only child.

Mortimer herself portrays Fanny’s mother, referred to only as The Bolter and seen a handful of times. Mortimer gives a delicious performance, just this side of camp.

Meanwhile, Linda’s parents are rather overprotective. Uncle Matthew (Dominic West) is a World War I veteran who hates foreigners and thinks that girls have no need for education. He would rather his daughters never leave the house at all, it seems.

West is clearly giving it his all and the effect is a fantastic comedic performance that nobody would have expected that West was capable of giving. But for all his bellowing, there is something quite endearing about Uncle Matthew that keeps him from seeming like a villain.

The first episode focuses on the girls as teenagers, desperate for their lives to truly begin, as most teenagers are. Fanny remarks, in her ongoing narration, “Linda and I were both in love with people we’d never met.”

But soon, things begin to change. The family’s neighbor, the eccentric hedonistic Lord Merlin (Andrew Scott) appears at a party and becomes Linda’s mentor, urging her to educate herself through books.

The Pursuit of Love. Pictured (L-R): Andrew Scott (Lord Merlin), Lily James (Linda Radlett). Photo credit: Robert Viglasky.
The Pursuit of Love. Pictured (L-R): Andrew Scott (Lord Merlin), Lily James (Linda Radlett). Photo credit: Robert Viglasky. /

Scott is fantastic in the role, from the moment he enters in a wild costume doing a strange dance to T. Rex’s “Dandy in the Underworld.” His portrayal of the bohemian Lord Merlin is extravagant enough that the audience understands why he’s so appealing to Linda, while not being so ridiculous that he seems out of place.

Linda soon finds herself in love with the son of a rich banker, Tony (Freddie Fox), and spends her days pining away for him. Fox imbues the character with a fantastic pomposity, balancing the line of absurdity and attractiveness.

The following two episodes see Linda flit through several relationships, while Fanny settles down with a scholarly somewhat unexciting man to raise children. Linda’s seeming inability to find happiness or stay with anyone is contrasted with the issues within Fanny’s own marriage and her frustration at not doing anything with her education.

Assaad Bouab stands out as Linda’s suave but noncommittal lover, Fabrice de Sauveterre. But by the end of the series, war has begun in Britain, calling the whole family home to Alconleigh once again.

Throughout the years, Fanny and Linda cyclically grow apart and then find their way back to each other. Their relationship is the real focus of the show, as their stories also contrast to help explore whether walking the path that is laid out for you and trying to be good is actually rewarding in the end.

While the supporting cast gives big performances, Linda and Fanny are more grounded characters. Both of them have moments in which the actresses get to show off their skills.

James is very glamorous as Linda and brings the right charm to the role to make it easy to understand why everyone so easily forgives her flighty behavior. Beecham’s performance is more subtle and nuanced than James’s vibrancy, but no less impressive.

The best thing about The Pursuit of Love is the world of upper-crust glitz and glamour that it throws the audience into. Zac Nicholson’s cinematography perfectly compliments Cristina Casali’s sumptuous production design. The costumes by Sinéad Kidao from gorgeous gowns to extravagant fur coats are stunning.

The Pursuit of Love. Pictured: Emily Mortimer (The Bolter). Photo credit: Robert Viglasky. Courtesy of Amazon Studios.
The Pursuit of Love. Pictured: Emily Mortimer (The Bolter). Photo credit: Robert Viglasky. Courtesy of Amazon Studios. /

Everything comes together to create a different world to which it’s fun to escape. This is all paired with a contemporary soundtrack that, when used, infuses the series with an energy and excitement that are sometimes missing elsewhere.

Without ever leaning into it too hard, the series is subtly feminist in the way that it shows the lack of options for women in this time period. Both Linda and Fanny are very aware of the ways in which the world is trying to put them into a box and Fanny is frustrated with the fact that she’s not using the education that she worked so hard for.

The Pursuit of Love is an irreverent and fun series that playfully mocks the British upper classes in the years between World War I and World War II. But at the same time, it’s about two women with very different life philosophies but a strong love for each other, trying to make their way in the world.

The Pursuit of Love asks the audience what the consequences are of pursuing love above all else – and what happens to those who settle.

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Did you love The Pursuit of Love? Which character was your favorite? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.