Love in a Cold Climate Review

Love In A Cold Climate is a phrase uttered by Polly early in this drama, finishing a question that wonders how, freshly returned from a life in India with her father, she might come to find love in the damp and chilly English countryside. Of course, this drama, adapted by Deborah Moggach from two novels by Nancy Mitford, is neither that simple nor straightforward. Instead, the heroines of The Pursuit Of Love and Love In A Cold Climate all find that the weather has little to do with the problems they encounter in their relationships.

Fanny (Rosamund Pike) is raised by her blustering uncle Lord Matthew Radlett (Alan Bates) while society maidens chatter about the absence of her mother, a wanton woman known only as The Bolter (Frances Barber). Polly (Megan Dodds) is rich, beautiful and her parents, Lord and Lady Montdore (John Standing and Sheila Gish) but her love is unrequited. Meanwhile, Linda Radlett (Elisabeth Dermot- Walsh) weds the son of a rich banker but finds herself stuck in a loveless marriage. Her husband (Geoffrey Streatfield) takes to the bed of his mistress for company while, during the day, busies himself in the House of Commons as a Conservative Member of Parliament.

The entire story is narrated by Fanny, who is something of a voice of reason and good sense amidst the drama. Linda, as silly and impetuous as she was at sixteen, divorces her husband and takes up with a Communist firebrand. The irony of wearing a fur coat on a platform at Speaker's Corner while demanding that everyone else aid the poor is completely lost on her. Polly mopes about the sprawling Montdore mansion until a very fortunate death leaves her free to pursue her quarry. Fanny, meanwhile, simply does what society expects of her. She contents herself with marrying for love, to Oxford don Alfred (Tom Ward), but heeds the words of Lady Montdore, who teaches the girl that love is simply not enough. She makes good in her home, raises children and is always ready to listen to Linda and Polly, even as pre-war events in Europe catch up to their gilded lives in London and Gloucestershire. And yet she never escapes the reputation of her mother, recognising that happiness comes not from folly and the pursuit of something that will remain elusive but from love, in whatever shape it comes in.

And love comes in some peculiar guises. Hopefully, this viewer has avoided giving the impression that this is serious fare. It has moments that ought to be viewed with some empathy, not least in two ill-fated pregnancies, but for every moment of drama, there is one of comedy. Linda's intentions might be good but she can't seem to help erring on the side of foolishness, picking not just the wrong man once but twice and on both sides of the political spectrum. All the while, her father, who objects to foreigners, homosexuals and Roman Catholics in roughly that order, blusters at her from his mansion, never quite telling her, "I told you so!" but always home that she'll see sense and marry a nice English gentleman.

Nice English gentlemen are something that Love In A Cold Climate doesn't have very much of. The men are either bores or philanderers. They have flimsy political principles and seem to be perfectly willing to neglect their wives in pursuit of their own happiness. Late in the show, Linda finds a man who actually loves her as she loves him, Parisian aristocrat Fabrice (Samuel Labarthe), but with Nazi troops gathering on the Franco-German border, their affair is cut short as he joins the Gaullist government in exile and asks that Linda return to the safety of her Gloucestershire home. Just when it seems that she's found happiness, it's snatched away from her once again.

So what does one actually learn of life and love? Not a good deal as it happens, more that life as a lady, lord or even an untitled girl is often an unhappy one. The moral of Love In A Cold Climate is that if one wants to be really happy, one must be gay. And all the better if one is also rich. Much like Fanny, Lord Merlin (John Wood), a peer who spends most of his days in his conservatory surrounded by doves that he has dyed pink, is Love In A Cold Climate's other voice of reason and good sense. Always there for his friends - he's particularly keen on advising Linda through brief teatime meetings with Fanny - he is the very model of decency. There is also Cedric Hampton (Daniel Evans), an outrageously gay man who arrives in England from Canada as heir to the Montdore fortune when Polly is cut from her parents' will. This produces the most riotous part of the series as he takes Lady Montdore out of her mansion and into society balls, new gowns and under the surgeon's knife. As callous at the film's end as she was at its beginning, Lady Montdore turns from a look of shock at her first seeing Cedric walk into her stately home to her grey hair being dyed blue and her head being turned as she emerges into a vibrant pre-war social scene. As the film ends, it is suggested that Cedric is even having an affair with 'Boy' Dougdale (Anthony Andrews), ironically the very reason why Polly was cut from the will by her marriage to him.

However, that's as nothing to the arrival of Frances Barber as the woman known throughout as The Bolter. Fabulously attractive, sharp-witted and so shameless as to need one of the younger Radlett girls (Jassy, played by Jemima Rooper) to point out which of the young ladies in the room is her daughter, Barber adds yet more spicy to a tale that's already been great fun. And it is with her arrival that the film reaches the closing moment that it deserves. There's little that one learns in Love In A Cold Climate but it's entertaining, well-made and looks beautiful throughout. Look elsewhere if you wish to know anything of the upper classes in the years prior to the Second Wolf War or of matters of the heart but as a means to enjoy the romantic goings-on behind mansion doors, Love In A Cold Climate is great fun.


Love In A Cold Climate was originally shown as a two part series and both episodes have been included here on this single, dual-layer DVD. The total running time is still less than three hours and the picture generally looks very good throughout. There's not a single fault on the source material and this has been transferred onto DVD in good shape, with the picture looking clean and detailed and with colour, brightness and sharpness a touch above what it was on its broadcast on television. The audio track, Dolby Digital 2.0, is fine and does well both by the music and dialogue. There's very few scenes that one might describe as having any action but the one that does, when Linda assists a number of refugees from the Spanish Civil War onto a boat taking them to Mexico, handles things well. The DVD also does well by the small amount of ambient noise that plays out in the background. Finally and what with this being a 2 Entertain release, there are English subtitles on both episodes.


There are no extras on this DVD release.

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Last updated: 18/04/2018 22:40:12

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