Review: Lily James searches for the real thing in 'The Pursuit of Love'

Three-part series on Amazon Prime Video is directed by Emily Mortimer.

Tom Long
Special to The Detroit News

The dangers of being raised female, empty-headed, full-hearted, repressed and wealthy are explored in Emily Mortimer’s three-part adaptation of “The Pursuit of Love,” a sort of “Downton Abbey” with seriously bad parenting.

Based on a 1945 novel by Nancy Mitford, the story follows the exploits of Linda Radlett (Lily James) and non-exploits of her faithfully dull cousin Fanny Logan (Emily Beecham) in the years between the world wars, as they move from their teens to adulthood in England. 

Lily James in "The Pursuit of Love."

Fanny has had a rough childhood; her mother (Mortimer) is known as the Bolter because she bolts from all responsibilities, including raising Fanny, preferring to party her way through life.

But at least Fanny has some sense of the real world. Linda has been raised on the huge estate of her domineering father (Dominic West, wonderfully broad) who believes education ruins women and keeps his daughters ever close. As a result Linda is a bit of a manic romantic, dangerously feverish to go out in the world and find love.

This, of course, leads her to marry the first good-looking beau she encounters. She’s so bedazzled she fails to notice he’s a pompous, wealth-obsessed jerk. And so begins Linda’s search for real love, with faithful Fanny always there for support.

It’s hard to beat James when it comes to erotic effervescence, but Linda never does go in for education, eventually becoming a somewhat mindless Bolter herself, creating a less sympathetic character than expected. Meanwhile steady Fanny stays pretty steady if likable.

Mortimer has fun dropping rock tunes into a period piece (this is apparently required by law these days) and appropriately mocking British tradition. And there’s certainly a ragged theme of female liberation humming throughout, although Linda hardly becomes a model of strength and forward thinking. Despite its straightforward plotting and the obvious contrast in cousins, Mortimer lets “The Pursuit of Love” play messy, since that’s how life itself plays.

Tom Long is a longtime contributor to The Detroit News. 

‘The Pursuit of Love”


Amazon Prime Video