Adapted from the novel written by Bethan Roberts, My Policeman chronicles the story of a trio of friends in 1950s England, whose friendship soon turns intimate in ways none of them expected, and the ramifications of their relationships over 40 years later when they’re unexpectedly reunited.
Tom (played as the older version by Linus Roach) and Marion’s (the older version played by Gina McKee) marriage hangs on by a thread and has been this way for some time. Both retired and mundanely moving their way through life, decide to take in their friend Patrick (played as the older version by Rupert Everett) under their care after he has a major stroke, leaving Patrick unable to walk or communicate like he once did.
However, upon Patrick’s arrival, Tom becomes even more distance than before, refusing to talk or interact with Patrick despite his requirements for care. Marion undertakes the role of carer, often retelling memories of their times looking at art together and sharing dinners as a trio.
It’s here we’re transported back to the 1950s, in which Tom, Patrick and Marion are played by Harry Styles, David Dawson and Emma Corrin respectively. Tom is a police officer who takes a fancying toward Marion, who is a schoolteacher, and the two begin to date. Marion has an amateur affinity for art and takes Tom to an art museum in the hopes to persuade him to grow an affinity like hers.
It is here the two are introduced to Patrick, an art acquisition specialist, whose line of work takes him to beautiful places around the world, using his expertise to pick the finest art for his curators. And as would come in this line of work, Patrick is bold, brash and a little pretentious, but takes a liking to Tom and Marion, and their friendship ignites.
Not before long, Tom and Marion are married. However, small cracks appear in their relationship which neither of them wishes to acknowledge, leading to an intimate encounter between Tom and Patrick, launching an affair that both hide from Marion.
My Policeman deals with and displays a lot of themes that have been seen before in the ‘secret gay love affair’ filmography. The forbidden nature of the intimacy between Tom and Patrick is obviously exacerbated by the fact that Tom is a police officer who is witnessing the arrests and mistreatments of homosexual men during this era. Even in a general societal sense, Marion’s reaction to homosexuality is described as ‘perverted’, and while covering his own actions, is agreed upon by Tom.
And while these themes are not pleasant and are a great example of showing the wrongs of our history and why we should learn from them, in a filmmaking sense, it adds no new thoughts or originality to these themes, either in a message conveying way, or story-telling way. Which leads to a tedious, almost 2-hour long movie that starts slow, and ends even slower. The snail-pace of the story, mixed with a back and forth in timelines that has little substance and utilises small character arcs, unfortunately means My Policeman packs an incredible soft punch when the emotional moments hit.
On a positive note, the performances across the board are quite good, and will most likely keep streaming audiences engaged when they decide to look away from their phones and watch the screen of which this movie is playing. In the 1950s, David Dawson is enigmatic and commands so much screen presence. While the timid natures of Tom and Marion are performed well by Styles, and even better by Corrin. Even though the share less screen time, our more modern day characters feel more like a midday-soap, but perhaps that’s just the depressing, dull mundanity of their lives within the movie being displayed.
Cinematographer Ben Davis (who also shot one of the year’s best looking movies in The Banshees of Inisherin) and director Michael Grandage work well together to make a stunning visual experience. The dullness of the 2000s life that our characters live in genuinely affected my mood when watching it, but then (before things get more convoluted) the 1950s are a shining, happy time that is shown in an incredible way. The camera patiently moves around the action to feel immersive but isn’t afraid to hold shots of conversations to let the actors chew the scenery.
All in all, My Policeman is as stock standard story wise as it could be. It’s monotonous story and gruelingly slow pace sadly outshine a great visual aesthetic and performances that are better than the story their telling.
My Policeman is streaming on Prime Video from November 4.
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