The Pursuit of Love, Fantasies, and morality tales make uneasy bedfellows, as evidenced throughout the varyingly exultant and worsening “The Pursuit of Love.” Tailor-made by Emily Mortimer from the famed same-named 1945 novel by Nancy Mitford, the three-episode miniseries is prepared in that sliver of time between World Battle I and World Battle II and follows two cousins whose contrasting personalities and priorities complicate their love and affection for each other. With characters who’re varieties larger than people, “The Pursuit of Love” is at its biggest when it’s a prickly, satirical analysis of the flightiness and eccentricity of the wealthy, and when it seems to be like a gossipy, gauzy social gathering dropped at life from the pages of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Nevertheless when it makes an try and make broader statements about girls’ duties and identities without the character work to once more it up, the aesthetic joys of “The Pursuit of Love” threaten to interrupt down under that moralizing weight.
Beginning in 1941 sooner than leaping once more to 1927 and shifting linearly forward, “The Pursuit of Love” follows cousins Fanny Logan (Emily Beecham) and Linda Radlett (Lily James). Fanny is the one daughter of the Bolter (Mortimer), a girl who left her to be raised by her Aunt Emily (Annabel Mullion) whereas the Bolter dove proper right into a string of relationships. Deeply broken by her mother’s abandonment, Fanny grows proper into a wise, logical youthful woman. Each Christmas, Fanny visits Linda at her family’s manor house Alconleigh throughout the English countryside. Alconleigh is dominated by Linda’s tyrannical father Matthew (Dominic West), whose hatred of foreigners and refusal to let his kids—notably his daughters—be educated has impressed in Linda a passionately emotional nature, and a decided have to develop up and depart her family.
Each episode of “The Pursuit of Love” tracks the cousins as they attempt to navigate pending maturity, and their routine turns into Linda falling for an individual, deciding she’s in love, leaving Fanny to be with him after which realizing that she hasn’t found happiness the least bit. “She was a wild and nervous creature, full of ardor and longing,” Fanny (who serves as a result of the sequence’ narrator) says of Linda, and Linda whole-heartedly throws herself into one relationship after one different. Each man opens up a window right into a particular type of the world: Tony Kroesig (Freddie Fox), an Oxford scholar, banker’s son, and eventual member of the House of Lords; Christian Talbot (James Frecheville), an avowed Communist and ally to laborers, particularly these rising up all through the Spanish Civil Battle; and Duke Fabrice de Sauveterre (Assaad Bouab), a wealthy Frenchman whose appreciation for model and artwork is balanced by his involvement throughout the French Resistance.
As Linda strikes spontaneously by the use of the world, Fanny stays put and worries; a whole lot of the stress of “The Pursuit of Love” comes from that imbalance. The arcs of supporting characters moreover rotate spherical Linda: the snarling Matthew, who West portrays with alternately hilarious absurdity (“Linda, you’re uneducated, thank God”) and unsettling rage; Fanny’s concerned uncle Davey (John Heffernan), whose giant grin belies his consciousness of the social destroy Fanny faces if she helpful properties positive reputation; and the Radletts’ neighbor Lord Merlin (Andrew Scott), a “vibrant youthful issue” whose eccentric qualities (dying pigeons vibrant colors, letting a horse roam by the use of his home) run parallel to his notion that society’s tips usually subjugate girls. Heffernan and Scott (this miniseries’ smoldering MVP) are considerably good collectively, and their characters present two sides of the “moneyed gentleman” coin. A scene all through which Davey and Merlin commerce snide observations about how wealthy their buddies are and dissolve into laughter over reminiscences of gallivanting around Europe collectively is an absolute highlight, and an indicator of what “The Pursuit of Love” might need to be used further of sardonic self-awareness to steadiness a whole lot of treacly sincerity.
In its place, “The Pursuit of Love” stays laser-focused on the variations between Linda’s and Fanny’s worldviews, and shame on me if I’ve been to complain about any standard traditional entity spending an extreme period of time on girls’ lives. Nevertheless what’s lacking from “The Pursuit of Love” is a continuing curiosity throughout the girl’s interiority earlier to Linda’s love obsession and Fanny’s lack of means to comprehend it. Fanny is such a reactive character that she succeeds as an observational narrator, nonetheless, when “The Pursuit of Love” makes try and make use of her as a foil for Linda, there merely isn’t quite a bit there. The sequence’s third (and biggest) episode makes some headway into Fanny’s private character, nonetheless then maddeningly turns down an excessively acquainted narrative freeway and leaves that subplot behind. Fanny and Linda actually really feel barely flattened all by means of the miniseries, as if Mortimer decided that the earlier being the bookish, quiet one and the latter being the vivacious, flirty one was adequate personalization.
James is charming adequate to beat these limitations, though, notably when she slips into a couple of her “Mamma Mia! Right here We Go Once more” mannerisms: swooning, laughing, emoting. She and the additional stalwart Beecham make a wonderful match, and Mortimer emphasizes their tough relationship with scenes that every have an excellent time their bond (hiding collectively throughout the Alconleigh linen closet) and critique their codependency (an agonizing farewell as Linda leaves by put together for France). What’s significantly missing from all this, though, is what makes Linda so distinctive and so beloved when her actions are so usually deeply selfish and hurtful to others; the sequence’s tone is throughout. (A further actual satirical bent would have crystallized this: Do people much like Linda on account of she’s pretty?) And the absence of that clarification moreover makes the ending of “The Pursuit of Love,” which stresses motherhood as a pure, sacrificial obligation, fall significantly flat in relation to its emotional impression.
“The Pursuit of Love” was filmed all through the COVID-19 pandemic, and parts of the distinction do actually really feel constrained: a reliance on indoor locations, manufacturing design to make scenes seem as in the event that they’re set in France, and an onslaught of contemporaneous black-and-white photos and archival data footage to talk the years passing from the 1920s to the 1940s. Some seen particulars are a bit too cutesy (looping cursive script onscreen informs viewers of character names and locations), and the miniseries has a curious relationship with inclusive casting (the good: a couple of male love pursuits are portrayed by actors of South Asian and North African descent; the unhealthy: Black girls and women of shade are used as distinctive dispensers of data).
These distractions and shortcomings aside, “The Pursuit of Love” is technically well-considered. Sinéad Kidao’s costumes seize the characters’ singularities, from Merlin’s dotted, open-chest silk pajamas to Linda’s glittering, artwork deco wedding ceremony costume to Fanny’s sensible tweed suits and the ostrich hat she yearns for, after which mightn’t stop fidgeting with. (Who knew the imaginative and prescient of Andrew Scott standing in a topic whereas carrying a pair of sunglasses and black rollneck sweater may very well be so life-changing?) Anachronistic soundtrack alternatives, like New Order’s “Ceremony” and Sleater-Kinney’s “Modern Girl,” add a contact of aptitude a la Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.” Does “The Pursuit of Love,” say one thing considerably insightful about womanhood, or about middle-century femininity as house ennui, or in regards to the relationship between the humanities and self-fulfillment? It hints at these ideas without digging in completely or meaningfully, and its ending is infuriatingly punishing. Nevertheless, the miniseries’ breezy tempo, likable ensemble, and low-key twee kind make “The Pursuit of Love” easy to fall into, even with the sense that its satire might need been spikier.