There is a lot to appreciate in Michael Grandage’s adaptation of Bethan Robert’s novel “My Policeman,” however it’s territory that’s been well-trod in gay-themed films.
The biggest takeaway for general audiences is that worldwide pop icon Harry Styles takes a front-and-center role here as Tom, a policeman in Britain whose relationship with his girlfriend Marion (Emma Corrin) is made complicated by the arrival of museum curator Patrick (David Dawson) into their lives. In doing so, Tom discovers a sexual and romantic attraction toward Patrick (who reciprocates and instigates), but since it is the early ’60s, after all, the two must keep it all hidden.
The love triangle is even more complicated by secret discoveries and reveals, causing rifts between the trio of friends reverberating across decades.
The beautifully shot film wanders back and forth between the 2000s when an older Marion (Gina McKee) and Tom (Linus Roache) are entering retirement, and a sickly Patrick is brought in to be cared for by the two. It is then that Marion discovers diaries Patrick kept that detail his affair with Tom, further cementing what Marion had suspected/known for years. Her goal now is to make the two men deal with it.
As written by Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia), My Policeman doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table. Still, for general audiences who haven’t seen stories like this, Styles might draw some eyes. For them, the pain of seeing two men staying closeted will be deftly felt, while those of us in the LGBTQ community might simply just nod in agreement and understanding. As mentioned, many other movies, books, and TV shows have traversed this topic, and Policeman doesn’t add much to the library.
That said, the tech credits, writing, directing, and acting are all spot on. Styles is coming into his own as an actor, and while he doesn’t make as much impact as, say, the character as Dawson does, he is an engaging presence onscreen. His love scene with Dawson was erotic, sexy, and authentic without being lurid. The chemistry is there, which helps in making us feel for the characters.
Corrin is very effective as the naïve and jealous wife, and her older counterpart McKee also brings a gravitas to a woman who has struggled (by her own choice) for decades.
That said, the emotional punch at the end doesn’t quite land, and there is more of an audience connection with the younger-era actors, but it still works in a genial way. It doesn’t stand out as an important LGBTQ film to seek out, but it’s lovely just the same. Perhaps it will be sought out by Styles fans and the curious and bring a greater understanding of the difficulties gay people faced in a world that didn’t want them.