DISCLAIMER: Minor spoilers abound for Amazon’s The Pursuit of Love.
Ah, the “coming-of-age” drama. While every generation tends to have its version of one, the crux of these stories is timeless. Unchanging. Regardless of where and when you grew up, chances are you’ve faced similar dilemmas as someone that aged in a different time than you. Finding love, figuring out what you want to do with your life, honing your political beliefs, etc.
So, it comes as no surprise that The Pursuit of Love profoundly resonates amid contemporary culture as it would in the 20th century.
Lily James and Emily Beecham star in this miniseries as Linda Radlett and Fanny Logan, two best friends who grow up between two wars in England. Linda is bold, fearless and feels just as intensely as she loves. Fanny is introverted, docile and dedicated to child-rearing. She lives vicariously through Linda.
James infuses Linda with so much heart and unabashed emotion. Back then, women were told to maintain a “stiff upper lip,” but Linda allows herself to feel to the fullest extent. She rails against tradition and societal convention. The juxtaposition between Linda and Fanny is intriguing to watch, with James and Beecham churning out wonderfully nuanced performances.
Emily Mortimer writes and directs a story adapted from Nancy Mitford‘s 1945 novel of the same name. She explores all-too-familiar themes, namely how to define a woman. Is she indefinable, or can she be neatly folded into a quaint box bedecked with white lace?
Women are still held to impossibly high standards, and this is clearly addressed in the series. The big takeaway here is that women truly are beyond definition. We can be loud, quiet, stoic and sensitive. We can encompass a multitude of traits and still be strong. Mortimer manages to modernize The Pursuit of Love in this regard.
However, there is such a thing as relentlessly whacking your audience over the head with a theme. Toward the end, Mortimer has the characters provide unnecessary exposition to drive the lesson home. In a way, it underestimates the intelligence of the viewers. We’re smart enough to get there without a helping hand.
Andrew Scott is woefully underused here as Lord Merlin, the de facto preserver of bohemia, the antithesis of conservatism. But when he is on screen, Scott is electrifying. Mortimer herself is another scene-stealer as “The Bolter.” Her character stirs contention everywhere she goes. She’s interestingly enmeshed in the main theme of The Pursuit of Love.
The Pursuit of Love‘s cinematography is as aesthetically pleasing as its costumes. Vividly eye-catching color palettes and to-die-for pieces. It incorporates the use of rapid-fire transitions and contemporary music to propel the story forward. Modern music in period pieces has been a source of disagreement. Starting with Sofia Coppola‘s Marie Antoinette through Netflix’s Peaky Blinders, implementing modern tunes into period dramas has always ruffled feathers.
I, for one, love it. The contemporary songs don’t detract from the narrative. They don’t instantly pull me out of that world.
What is rather disjointing is The Pursuit of Love‘s ending. I won’t give away what it is, but it’s abrupt. Not entirely unexpected, but sudden nonetheless. It also feels a bit sloppy, as if there wasn’t enough screen time to finish the story properly, so it just … ends.
The Pursuit of Love delves into pure, unadulterated female friendship. Here, we see that platonic love can be just as deep and fruitful as romantic love. Linda and Fanny are each other’s anchors. At face value, one may think that Fanny is in love with Linda. That’s not the case. She wants to be Linda.
Overall, The Pursuit of Love is a campy, coming-of-age story that’s just plain fun. It’s bolstered by strong performances from the leads and supporting cast. If you’re a sucker for a visually stimulating period piece, then this is right up your alley. It’s steamy, dreamy and romantic.
Of course, it’s not without its flaws — namely the ending, the exposition and the underuse of Andrew Scott — but it’ll keep you entertained for three hours. Isn’t that what it’s all about nowadays?
The Pursuit of Love also stars Dominic West, Dolly Wells, John Heffernan, Shazad Latif, Freddie Fox, Annabel Mullion and Assaad Bouab. You can stream all three episodes on Friday, July 30, only on Amazon Prime.
This article was originally published on 7/28/21.
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