‘My Policeman’ is a romantic drama film based on the novel written by Bethan Roberts

22 February 2023 / by Jordyn Lalonde
My policeman review
‘My Policeman’ is a romantic drama film based on the novel written by Bethan Roberts
This film depicts a forbidden love triangle between two men and a woman during a time when homosexuality was illegal

Presently, homosexuality is accepted nationwide, and its acceptance has continuously grown as laws are repealed or altered. However, many countries continue to criminalize it, which poses a severe risk for those in that community. Michael Grandage’s My Policeman indicates the troubles of homosexuality for times when it was illegal everywhere and how much worse treatment towards homosexual people was back then in comparison to now. My Policeman was written by Ron Nyswaner, produced by Sarah Schechter, and directed by Michael Grandage. The film starred Harry Styles, Emma Corrin, David Dawson, Rupert Everett, Gina McKee and Linus Roache. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2022. 

Set in 1950s Brighton East Sussex, England, the story recounts the life of three individuals involved in a complicated and troublesome love triangle. A young policeman by the name of Tom Burgess (Harry Styles) is introduced to his sister’s friend Marion Taylor (Emma Corrin), a local school teacher at a beach one day; in which he offers to give her swimming lessons to get to know her better and then a relationship forms. A few years later, Tom meets a museum curator, Patrick Hazlewood (David Dawson).

Patrick, who is gay, hangs out quite a bit with Tom and has strong romantic desires for him, which Tom initially doesn’t know. Patrick invites Tom over one evening, and while inebriated, they make romantic and sexual advances toward one another, making Tom realize his sexuality. The legality and prior relationship lead Tom and Patrick to keep this encounter secret, as it was, and in some countries still is, illegal to be a homosexual person, so they would have gone to prison if their sexual orientation was discovered. Eventually, the truth comes out, and Tom and Patrick are separated, which causes strain on Tom’s relationship with Patrick and Marion. Patrick is sent to prison and abused by the other inmates specifically for his sexuality, and Tom loses his job as a Policeman and never speaks to or visits Patrick again.

Decades later, in the 1990s, an older Marion (Gina McKee) takes care of Patrick (Rupert Everett) after he has had a stroke and tries to rekindle his relationship with Tom (Linus Roache). She discovers Patrick’s diary from his belongings, which she reads and learns more about his love affair with Tom from the late 1950s, where the story began. In the end, Marion leaves Tom so he can finally be with Patrick, as she claims their separation over the years has put significant strain on the marriage and that Tom never truly loved her as Patrick did. Tom finally goes to Patrick, kisses him on the head and holds his hand to let him know that he is finally there for him after years apart from his true love. Many factors come into play between the three characters within the film, such as homophobia, betrayal, jealousy, infidelity and loneliness. However, they all connect through art, music, love and togetherness. 

The storyline was put together well, as the viewers could see the hardships of a woman deeply in love with a man who didn’t feel the same. Similarly, it displayed the troubles of two men deeply in love with one another, yet, separated by the law. The intense love Tom has for Patrick and the partnership he desires with Marion are heartbreaking on screen because of his desire for both in a society that shuns his wishes.

The set up for the film was well done for the times it was set in, as the costumes were well suited for the 1950s and 90s in contrast to the past and present times they were comparing. The music represented the scenes nicely, as some songs were more loud and playful, such as the song “Baby” by Little Richard for a pool scene between Tom and Marion, and others for the more intimate scenes, such as the song “Bewitched” by Ella Fitzgerald for the love scene between Tom and Patrick. The soundtrack contains 50s rock and roll tracks and the original classical music composed by Steven Price, which not only helps form the setting in the film but also indicates the character’s viewpoints.

Regarding the constraints of the film, Marion was pinned as the villain in the earlier years of her marriage with Tom. The film could have shown further limitations between Marion and Tom so the viewers could understand and see more of the struggles of their relationship. I acknowledge that the film focuses on Tom and Patrick’s constrained love. Still, I feel it would have added more context to the story if we saw more of Marion’s viewpoints around Tom, so we could give more credit for her secrecy and potentially lessen the villainy of her actions. 

Another factor I noticed for the film’s duration was Harry’s slightly exaggerated acting. I know I am not alone when I say that his performance could have been better, as there has been much criticism online about it. However, it is not too noticeable and doesn’t ruin the scenes because he talks less than the other characters. 

The film gave me mixed feelings towards all three characters, as they all had strengths and flaws. Marion and Patrick wanted to be with and loved by Tom so much that they did everything possible to do just that. In the end, Marion and Patrick both come together. They had enough mutual respect, which showed how they had grown over the years despite their initial jealousy and slight resentment toward one another. Marion decided to leave Tom and let Patrick finally be with his true love, which was beneficial not only for Tom and Patrick’s mental well-being but also for Marion because she could finally live without feeling guilty and unloved. Patrick also ultimately respected their marriage once Tom decided he wanted nothing to do with him but continued to lead a life of loneliness until the end, just like Marion.

On the other hand, Tom seemed genuinely lovable in the beginning. Still, the fact that he continued to toy with Marion and Patrick’s emotions throughout the film led me to believe that he was pretending to be a victim when he was very much in control of the situation. Tom could have been honest with Marion and led a life of secrecy with Patrick instead. In the end, Marion is the only one who does the right thing, rekindling Tom and Patrick’s love and leaving the picture altogether so they can be truly happy. 

My Policeman is a perfect example of the struggles with love between consenting adults that aren’t approved by societal standards. Unfortunately, these barriers still occur in many places worldwide, as certain people only want to see love in a more traditional sense. This story represents the want and needs for love and acceptance, no matter the struggles faced along the way. 

My Policeman was released on October 21st, 2022 and is available on Prime Video.