Walking into TIFF 2022, My Policeman was one of the films that captured a lot of buzz from everyone talking about the festival. A British period story about Queer love and the lies told to allow it to exist, felt ready to take on the festival, especially with Harry Styles in one of the leading roles. It is a pity that one of the biggest draws to the film was also its biggest weakness.
Adapted from a novel by Bethan Roberts, My Policeman tells the story of three friends stuck in a triangle that challenges norms and expectations against love. The film sets its story in two distinct times, giving a look at the characters’ past and the troubles they all faced, along with giving a look at where they all ended up.
Directed by Michael Grandage, My Policeman begins with a look at the modern day characters, now retired, Tom (Linus Roache) and Marion (Gina McKee) are in a sea-side village where they are living out their remaining years, going through the motions of marriage. Things are shaken when now estranged friend Patrick (Rupert Everett) comes to stay with them after a stroke. Little is told about what transpired to make the situation so tense, but as Marion reminisces about the past and reads old diaries, we are slowly let in on the many secrets.
Looking back at the 50s, we are greeted by Tom (Harry Styles) walking down the beach to talk to Marion (Emma Corrin). As they catch up, we get a sense of what everyone wants to do with their lives. Tom Burgess talks of his life as a police officer, and Marion of her dreams of becoming a teacher. It is very much what you would expect from a British period drama, and works to set the stage for their eventual relationship, and things get mixed up even more when they both meet Patrick Hazlewood (David Dawson), a museum curator who Tom knows through his duties as a police officer.
“I walked in to My Policeman excited to see what this movie had to offer, and walked out utterly disappointed.”
What follows is an exploration of the different relationships, and how they clash due to expectations and the laws of the land at that time. There are scenes that show how hard it is to be Queer in the UK, and how it is something that can’t be out in the open in any way. But even with this, the characters are not as easily defined as they first appear.
Tom, who on the surface focuses on law, is torn between his love and his life in the force. Marion wants nothing more than to be Tom’s wife and support him, but she is torn by her homophobic thoughts, and Patrick is a hopless romantic who wants nothing more than to find love and not be alone.
This is all a great set-up for drama, and it would have potential if anyone on the screen had chemistry or could pull off the roles they were given, but sadly it all feels wooden and forced, Harry Styles especially. While he has the looks for the role, he is simply not convincing as Tom, or as a man conflicted by his needs and wants. Styles delivers his lines in a monotone that does nothing to project love, hate or even passion. The sex scenes, despite the nudity, lack any sense of compassion or excitement, and I never believed he had feelings for anyone, let alone the two love interests in the film.
The present-day segments of My Policeman do better overall, but still fail to ignite the passion for the subject that is needed for such a story. There are many failings with My Policeman, and despite its best efforts it does little service to Queer people or the stories they faced in Britain due to oppressive laws.
There are far better movies, and better ways of tackling the “behind closed doors” of people struggling to find love, but sadly My Policeman fails on almost every front. It does not help that the ending feels rushed, with the needed time to flesh out each of these characters lives simply left by the wayside for a few more seaside scenes or well staged sex scenes, but moaning and nudity does not equal passion.
I walked in to My Policeman excited to see what this movie had to offer, and walked out utterly disappointed. From a bad script, to lacking any chemistry, this is a movie that has failed to deliver on any front. Even with fantastic cinematography, great names, and a hot button topic, if a film can’t capture the basics, it will be doomed to fail. My Policeman is a film best left forgotten, and hopefully the next attempt at Queer love on the big screen is much more worthy of the admiration.