The Pursuit of Love reviews: what critics said about BBC drama starring Lily James - and how to watch on TV

Overall, the new BBC comedy drama was met with a positive reaction from the critics

BBC’s new three part series The Pursuit of Love got underway on Sunday evening (9 May), as viewers soaked up Emily Mortimer’s adaption of Nancy Mitford’s classic novel.

Starring Lily James, Dominic West and Andrew Scott, the series focuses on Linda Radlett (James) and her beloved cousin Fanny Logan (Emily Beecham) as they attempt to entertain themselves whilst living in the confines of the Radlett family home, Alconleigh.

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Here’s what the critics made of the first episode - and how to watch the three-part series.

BBC’s new three part series The Pursuit of Love got underway on Sunday evening (C) Theodora Films Limited & Moonage Pictures Limited - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

What is The Pursuit of Love about?

Adapted and directed by award-winning actor Emily Mortimer (Mary Poppins Returns), the romantic comedy-drama stars Lily James (Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again, Cinderella) as the fearless Linda Radlett, and Emily Beecham (Little Joe, Cruella) as her best friend and cousin Fanny Logan.

Fanny Logan is sent to the confines of Alconleigh to live under the wing of her uncle Matthew Radlett (West), after her mother ‘The Bolter’, abandons her as a baby. Logan’s cousin, Linda Radlett, encourages her to go on adventures as her head is filled with nothing but romantic fantasies.

"Consumed by a desire for love and marriage the two women are on the hunt for an ideal husband, but their friendship is put to the test when they choose very different paths. Whilst Fanny settles for a steady life, Linda decides to follow her heart, to increasingly wild and outrageous places," a teaser shares.

Overall, the Pursuit of Love was met with a positive reaction from the critics (C) Theodora Films Limited & Moonage Pictures Limited - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

The full cast of The Pursuit Of Love features Dominic West, Andrew Scott, Dolly Wells, Annabel Mullion, John Heffernan, Shazad Latif, Assaad Bouab, Freddie Fox, James Frecheville, Emily Mortimer, Beattie Edmondson and Martha West.

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What do the reviews say?

Overall, the Pursuit of Love was met with a positive reaction from the critics.

The Pursuit of Love is broadcast on BBC One on Sundays at 9pm (C) Theodora Films Limited & Moonage Pictures Limited - Photographer: Robert Viglasky

Lucy Mangan for the Guardian hailed the show as “absolutely glorious”. Acknowledging the show may be “frowned on by purist fans” of the book, for anyone outside of that group, The Pursuit of Love feels “like a classic in its own right”.

“The fun – and funniness – here is thanks again to such a deft, intelligent and loving script from Mortimer. It is edged with melancholy, and beneath it all lies a throb of pain,” Mangan said.

Abby Robinson for Digital Spy praised Lily James’ performance as Linda Radlett saying: “The Downton Abbey and Mamma Mia star delivers one of her finest performances to date.”

In the Evening Standard’s five-star review of the show, Jessie Thompson said Mortimer’s adaptation has: “romance, secret meetings in cupboards, sploshing bath water, angry upper-class patriarchs, luscious interiors and biting wit.”

Thompson also praises writer and director Mortimer for her aesthetic choices in the show, saying she “subtly illuminates parts of the novel in ways that shed new light” on the story.

The RadioTimes’s Eleanor Bley Griffiths gave the show four stars, saying The Pursuit of Love in short is “great fun - and very funny - and, at times, quite touching and sad”.

Finally, Ed Cumming for The Independent said The Pursuit of Love “feels like a post-Bridgerton work”. Cumming’s adds: “this adaptation, for all its technical proficiency, crisp one-liners and confident performances, sometimes feels a little chilly. Admiration comes more easily than love.

Where was The Pursuit of Love filmed?

Filming for The Pursuit of Love took place in 2020 in the Bristol and Bath area, as well as Paris, France.

How do I watch The Pursuit of Love?

The Pursuit of Love is broadcast on BBC One on Sundays at 9pm. Episode two and three will air weekly, lasting an hour long each.

Alternatively you can watch the full series online straight away on BBC iPlayer, with all three episodes of the series available now.

Outside of the UK, the series will be available on Amazon Prime Video in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.