There are few things this writer likes better than a good old-fashioned BBC period drama. And when you add to the mix a whipsmart script by Emily Mortimer, a modern soundtrack by the likes of New Order and Sleater-Kinney, and a glorious performance by the brilliant (and versatile) Lily James? You’ve got all the trappings of a breakout TV hit. Such is the case for The Pursuit of Love, a new three-part adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s iconic 1945 novel, which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime video in Australia.
The story centers around the friendship of cousins Linda Radlett (James) and Fanny Logan (newcomer Emily Beecham), as they navigate love, marriage, and identity in the aristocratic circles of post-war Britain. Linda—sheltered by an overbearing father, played by Dominic West, who doesn’t believe in women’s education—is desperate to get out and see the world, but is trapped by the restraints of her gender. Fanny, an ambitious, bookish university graduate, is more reserved, but is tantalised by her fabulous, rule-breaking cousin.
The production quality immediately elevates The Pursuit of Love from run-of-the-mill literary adaptation to one of the more exciting TV launches of the last 12 months. Art director Sarah Notley has previously worked with Wes Anderson (touches of his highly-curated aesthetic had an obvious impact on The Pursuit of Love), while the sumptuous costumes come courtesy of Sinéad Kidao, who last worked on Greta Gerwig’s Little Women.
The release of The Pursuit of Love was somewhat overshadowed by a scandal involving its stars. Dominic West and Lily James found themselves at the centre of a media storm during filming late last year, when tabloid pictures appeared to unearth an inappropriate closeness between the pair (West’s later, bizarre publicity stunt with his wife only served to fuel affair rumours). But to let that off-screen drama diminish the series’ value would be a great shame. The Pursuit of Love is, above all, a moving ode to the power of female friendship, delivered in a slick, delicious package. And who—after this strange, isolated year—isn’t in the mood for exactly that?