REVIEW: ‘My Policeman’ is a compelling drama of love and self-exploration

Nate Mauldin, Staff Writer

A romantic drama set along the English coast, the stylistic setting and poignant performances found in “My Policeman” leave audiences with a beautiful message about finding love and coming to terms with our innermost identity.

Directed by Michael Grandage and based on the novel by Bethan Roberts, “My Policeman” tells the story of policeman Tom Burgess (Harry Styles) who falls in love with schoolteacher Marion Taylor (Emma Corrin) in 1950s Brighton. Conflict arises when Tom begins a same-sex affair with museum curator Patrick Hazelwood (David Dawson). The film periodically transitions between the 1950s and 1990s, showing the progression of the love triangle’s younger and older selves. After an older Patrick suffers a stroke, he is taken under the care of Tom and Marion, who are still together. With Patrick now staying at their home, the trio begins to unravel their past to reconcile the memories and heartache of their lives together.

As with the novel, the film utilizes vignettes from the perspectives of Marion and Patrick to show the evolution of their parallel relationships with Tom. Unlike the book however, there isn’t any direct narration from Marion or Patrick. This interesting stylistic difference allows for the characters’ younger selves to feel as much a part of the story as their older selves, rather than emotionally disconnected from one another.

The striking setting of the film plays beautifully with its romantic motifs. The coastal city of Brighton offers a uniquely whimsical yet occasionally dreary backdrop for a story told through the idealized memories of its characters. The seemingly endless white cliffs and rocky beaches conjure up feelings of longing and heartache, while the brightly colored telephone and police boxes encapsulate the feeling of a bygone world.

The film’s a bit slow to start, but certainly worth the initial exposition of where the characters ended up and how they came to meet. What soon develops is a refreshing story about forbidden love and the tribulations faced to overcome internal denial of one’s identity. Though the film isn’t the first to present these themes, it explores the historical hardships of queer people in unexpected and noteworthy ways.

The treatment of queer people in 1950s Britain is a topic rarely explored in popular film. Many audiences might even learn something about the history of LGBTQ+ discrimination in the U.K. For example, while gay men and women were often arrested for their sexuality during that same time in the United States, they usually wouldn’t find themselves imprisoned for it. In Europe and Britain, however, imprisonment for years was a common occurrence just half a century ago. This upsetting aspect of history serves as the very basis for conflict in the film.

With its historical connotations, the film stands out for telling a gay love story from the perspective of a woman scorned by the infidelity of her sexually confused partner. Marion’s constant battle to win over Tom is truly heartbreaking, and as one can imagine, a very real problem that couples faced due to the societal norms of that time.

But of course, no amount of historical context or cultural significance would allow the film to resonate without the effectiveness of its cast. Without shying away from the more intimate acts of love in the film, both the younger and older cast shine in contrasting yet cohesive ways. With a script that revolves heavily around the evolution of relationships, the chemistry between the trio as their younger and older selves are conducive to an immersive and believable story.

Whether you’re a fan of musician Harry Styles, or just enjoy going to the movies, you’ve probably noticed his arrival onto the acting scene over the past few years. Styles as Tom is perhaps his best role yet. His portrayal of a policeman exploring his sexuality at a time when same-sex relations were illegal is a complete departure from his usual performances. Following a mixed response from critics and audiences for his performance in “Don’t Worry Darling” last month, Styles’ role as the title character in “My Policeman” hopes to cement his capacity as a multifaceted talent.

Emma Corrin delivers an undeniably kinetic performance as Marion. She does a great job portraying the heartache and anger of a woman griped by betrayal. During one particular scene, Emma uses little more than her facial expressions to convey her feelings, but the audience immediately resonates with her internal struggles. Rupert Everett as Patrick is also a convincing and well-round character, particularly when he shares the screen with Tom. Their chemistry is understandably the heart of this film, and the actors do not disappoint.

Grandage does a great job transitioning the past and present with wonderful performances by older Tom (Linus Roach), Marion (Gina Mckee) and Patrick (Rupert Everett). The older cast does a better job at portraying the aging of characters than any film in recent memory. Down the smallest mannerisms of their younger selves, it’s clear the cast took time to make the transition of time feel as cohesive as possible.

Overall, “My Policeman” is a very enjoyable film that tells a unique story of gay romance, with a healthy touch of love triangle drama. Thanks to its wonderfully talented cast, it delivers one of the better love stories of 2022.

“My Policeman” is now showing at Stone Theaters in Wilmington and will be available to stream on Prime Video Nov. 4.