Pursuit of Love is about romance with an edge

Sunday: The Pursuit of Love; (BBC1, 9pm)

Saturday, 8th May 2021, 5:00 pm
Fanny and Linda
Fanny and Linda

The new three-part period drama The Pursuit of Love is something of a labour of love for Emily Mortimer

Not only does she take a supporting role as The Bolter (so named because of her habit of leaving her husbands), but the Mary Poppins Returns actress also directed the series and adapted the screenplay from the classic novel by Nancy Mitford.

So, it may come as a bit of a surprise that she didn’t originally come up with the idea of bringing the book (which has previously been filmed in 1980 and 2001, although both of those versions combined it with Mitford’s follow-up, Love in a Cold Climate) to the screen. It was actually her agent who secured the rights and asked if Emily would be interested in writing the script.

However, she admits she didn’t need much persuading to take on the project, as she’d first read the book as a teenager.

Emily says: “When my agent asked me if I’d have a go at adapting it, I said yes immediately. I re-read the book and immediately thought yes even more.

“The experience of reading the novel is just as exciting in this day and age and the book still feels quite shocking and radical. It’s quite bracing and liberating to read which is amazing as it was written in 1945. It is full of love and romance but it has an edge. To me, it felt cool and it feels like there is a place for this now.”

Filming took place during the pandemic, which made Emily aware of another way in which The Pursuit of Love, which begins in the 1920s and ends during the Second World War, may strike a chord with modern viewers.

She says: “There is something about this story being set between the wars, at a time when life was very fragile and everyone was living like there was no tomorrow. Our generation hasn’t had that experience of life in such an intense way. I hope this cheers people up. It is about painful subjects but there’s an energy to it.”

Some of that energy comes from a great cast, led by Lily James as the impetuous Linda Radlett and Emily Beecham, who plays her beloved cousin Fanny Logan. As the story begins in 1920s Oxfordshire, both girls are impatient for their lives to begin so they can escape the Radlett’s family seat of Alconleigh.

However, they have different ideas of what their lives will look like. Linda, who has grown up under the terrifying regime of her father, known as Uncle Matthew (Dominic West), wants romance and adventure, while Fanny, who was abandoned by her mother, The Bolter, longs for stability and security. When the Radletts’ neighbour Lord Merlin (Andrew Scott) brings Tony Kroesig (Freddie Fox) to their coming-out ball, it seems Linda’s dreams of romance and escape are coming true, and she’s ready to fall head-over-heels. Unfortunately, Fanny has her doubts about the match, creating a distance between the cousins.

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