When retired school teacher Marion (Gina McKee) takes in the ill Patrick (Rupert Everett) after suffering from a stroke, she reflects upon her entire life and the choices she made to keep her husband, Tom (Linus Roache). Flipping between 1997 and 1957, My Policeman tells the story of a love triangle gone wrong.
Basing his script on the acclaimed novel by Bethan Roberts, writer Ron Nyswaner focuses most of the story on the young lives of Marion, Patrick, and Tom, played by Emma Corrin (Princess Diana in The Crown), David Dawson, and Harry Styles, respectively. Marion always had an attraction to Tom, the older brother of her childhood friend, even if he never made an advance. He brings her around to his friend Patrick, a museum curator, and together they cook, go to the theater, and read. Tom eventually proposes to Marion, though their marriage is soon interrupted by the revelation that Patrick was more than just a friend. A story of gay love and betrayal, My Policeman tries to explore the casualties of a homophobic society.
Director Michael Grandage films everything tastefully. Each shot is beautiful to look at but often lacks the substance to actually say something of meaning. His pacing feels painfully slow, dragging out a cliche and predictable story of gay shame and turmoil.
Out of the three lead young performers, David Dawson is the strongest. Breathing life into the original trio, you can’t stop watching his subtle movements. He can’t save Corrin or Styles though. Corrin can’t find the humanity in Marion, who’s desperate need for love ruins the lives around her. Styles’ line readings feel wooden and rehearsed which is the last thing you want when your leading man is being sought after by two people. This, combined with his panned performance in Don’t Worry Darling, is not a strong start to the leading man era of his acting career.
My Policeman tries to be one of those quiet and heavy British dramas that gained Oscar buzz in the 00s, like Atonement or The Reader. However it fails to be interesting enough to hold one’s attention forty minutes into its nearly two hour run time.
The more interesting dynamic is the triangle formed by the older versions of Patrick, Tom, and Marion. If the focus was on the outcome of their choices, not on how they made them, the emotional and psychological fallout would be more compelling.
It’s a shame that My Policeman isn’t done the way it should be. Throughout history, LGBTQIA individuals have hid a part of themselves and entered heterosexual relationships for their own protection. By living inauthentically, they robbed themselves and possibly their straight counterparts of happiness. That is where the story should be found: in the tragedy of society’s failure in a time gone by, not in the melodrama of a plot played out.
My Policeman is in theaters today and will be released on Amazon Prime November 4.