'My Policeman' movie review: A jejune tale of forbidden love
As the film progresses, we understand that Taylor’s psyche mirrors homophobic people and how she embarks on a journey of unlearning and accepting the spectrum.
Published: 05th November 2022 07:30 AM | Last Updated: 05th November 2022 07:30 AM | A+A A-
At a point in 'My Policeman', young Patrick (David Dawson), a museum curator, says, “This love is all-consuming... I pity people who don’t know what it feels like to be this in love.” These plaintive words resound the crux of the story.
Set in 1950s Brighton, UK, the film revolves around three youngsters — Patrick, a cop named Tom (Harry Styles), and a school teacher, Taylor Marion (Emma Corrin) — who are the victims of complex relationship ties and identity crises. At a time when homosexuality is considered “illegal and unnatural” by the law of land and conditioned society, 'My Policeman' primarily portrays how Tom and Patrick handle their forbidden bond and its impact on Tom’s married life with Taylor.
While we know that 'My Policeman' is adapted from a 2012 book of the same name, director Michael Grandage seems to have opted for the low-hanging fruits by using the ‘discovered diary’ trope to tell a story and seesaw the narrative between the past and the present. It is as old as the skies and does not incite any inquisitiveness. On the other hand, the insert shots of tides and static shots of the seashore are just mediocre.
The initial few minutes of the film try one’s patience with the characters’ lacklustre interactions and ambiguous setting. Only when the story shifts to the past, introducing the characters, and their backstories, do the audience and the film finds common ground.
As 'My Policeman' begins, it is the 1990s. We see older versions of these three characters. An elderly woman, Taylor (played by Gina Mckee), welcomes Patrick (played by Rupert Everett) who has had a stroke to live in her cottage on the seaside. However, Tom (Linus Roache) resists meeting Patrick and does not entertain Taylor’s efforts to bring them together. But the bedridden Patrick longs to be with Tom as his days grow shorter.
It is intriguing to see the unpretentious definitions of the three characters that make them distinctive. It darts the palpable energies of three edgy corners of a love triangle. While Patrick embraces his love for Tom, the latter refuses to acknowledge his sexual orientation and eventually becomes the victim of social conditioning. Irrespective of his inclination, he marries Taylor not only for the sake of society and job security but also because he loves her.
Taylor, on the other hand, is unable to accept the idea of homosexuality. It is when she learns that Tom is using their relationship as a cover-up, although unintentionally, the film reverberates Patrick’s belief that all love stories are tragic. As the film progresses, we understand that Taylor’s psyche mirrors homophobic people and how she embarks on a journey of unlearning and accepting the spectrum.
While Harry sincerely and realistically expresses his character’s innocence, vulnerability and helplessness, those who play different versions of these three characters, have also well-understood the metre and justified their earnest performances. Two pivotal scenes — one when Taylor sees Tom and Patrick together through a crack in the wooden shed and another when Patrick informs Taylor about Tom and him going on a “work trip” to Venice — effectively deals with intense emotions such as possessiveness and insecurity in relationships.
Probably the only moment the film gains momentum is when Taylor reveals a long-hidden truth and how she wants to use the one last chance to let go of regret and guilt that have been weighing her down for years.
To give credits where it is due, the frames, colour palette and production design — especially the settings of concerto, mansions and museum — aesthetically bring to life the two time periods. Besides, the intimate scenes are choreographed with the utmost sensibility and sensitivity. Intimacy co-ordinator Ben Wright has choreographed the scenes intending to reflect the inner selves of the individuals. Especially in the case of Tom, the scenes show how he feels comfortable with Patrick and not so easy with his wife.
However, we could have connected with the story and empathised with the characters better if the film had delved deeper into the history, the community’s anecdotes of facing grim realities and the gay lovers’ interpersonal relationships instead of relying merely on physical intimacy as a way of expression.
The film ends on a note of redemption, with characters discovering how love stories could be tragic for one and reassuring for another. With more effort into enhancing the narrative style and adding layers to the plotline, the film could have become an empathetic tale of broken hearts and strained ties.
Cast: Harry Styles, Linus Roache, Emma Corrin, Gina McKee, David Dawson, Rupert Everett
Director: Michael Grandage