English actress Emily Mortimer has been a screen staple since her film debut in “The Ghost and the Darkness” opposite Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas in 1996. She’s as at home in period pieces like “Elizabeth” as she is in contemporary films like “Lars and the Real Girl” (among many more). Mortimer co-wrote the series “Doll & Em” with her co-star Dolly Wells, but the accomplished actress finally makes her directing debut with the three-episode miniseries “The Pursuit of Love,” which debuts Friday on Amazon Prime.
Adapted from Nancy Mitford’s 1945 novel, “The Pursuit of Love” begins as a fizzy and delightful period piece, before exploring the darker sides of life during and after wartime. The story follows a pair of cousins, Linda and Fanny (Lily James and Emily Beecham) who are the best of friends, navigating their coming of age in England between the world wars. Linda is a beautiful, reckless rebel, while Fanny is the more cautious and careful type, but they rely on each other to get through life’s challenges, whether it’s Linda injecting a sense of fun and adventure or Fanny offering stability and comfort when Linda needs it most.
While Mortimer has a small part as Fanny’s absentee mother, and her friend and writing partner Wells plays Linda’s mother, the series is a loud and proud debut of Mortimer as an auteur behind the camera. She brings a lively sense of style, whimsy and modern flair to the project, and it’s an exciting announcement of her aesthetic and sensibility as a director. Since “The Pursuit of Love” is only three episodes, her next directing project can’t come soon enough.
After your binge, you may want to explore more films and series in the same world, so here are some related streaming suggestions to sample.
Novelist and biographer Nancy Mitford had a life and family even more fascinating than her books, and in fact, “The Pursuit of Love” and its companion volume “Love in a Cold Climate” are semi-autobiographical, based on her aristocratic upbringing as one of the six Mitford sisters. The sisters were a part of the group of young Bohemians in 1920s London known as the “bright young things,” and they went on to have vastly different political and personal lives.
“Love in a Cold Climate” was adapted into a BBC miniseries in 2001, starring Rosamund Pike, which is available to stream on BritBox. Evelyn Waugh’s 1930 novel “Vile Bodies” satirized the “bright young things” lifestyle, and was later made into a film starring Mortimer herself, directed by Stephen Fry. The 2003 film, “Bright Young Things,” is available to stream on HBO Max.
Lily James, who stuns as the mercurial and fascinating Linda, also starred in the World War II-era romance “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” about British resistance to Nazi occupation in the Channel Islands during the war. It’s a charming, enchanting film set against the challenges of wartime, and it’s a cozy and satisfying watch. Catch it streaming on Netflix.
Co-star Emily Beecham won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 for her stunning turn in the bio-horror thriller “Little Joe,” directed by Jessica Hausner. Be sure to watch this strange sci-fi film about a genetically engineered plant, streaming on Hulu.
While sadly “Doll & Em” isn’t currently available to stream, watch writer director Mortimer as a struggling actress in a complicated relationship with her mother and sister in Nicole Holofcener’s “Lovely & Amazing,” streaming on HBO Max, and Wells as one of Bridget Jones’ best friends in “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” streaming on Starz.
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