My Policeman could’ve been another poignant and powerful queer period drama, akin to films like Portrait of a Lady on Fire or Carol. But despite its intentions and star power, it ends up a largely tepid film rife with clichés.
Based on the novel of the same name by Bethan Roberts, it follows the story of a closeted gay policeman in the 1950s, who marries a schoolteacher, while being in a secret relationship with a museum curator. It’s a forbidden love story portraying the difficulties of being queer during the time period, with superstar Harry Styles and Emmy-nominated Emma Corrin in lead roles.
Directed by Michael Grandage, My Policeman is split into two timelines with different actors portraying the characters in each set: one in the 1990s and the other in the 1950s. Starting off in the ‘90s, we first meet Marion Taylor (Gina McKee) and Tom Burgess (Linus Roache), retirees in a lackluster marriage. Marion offers to help take care of a man named Patrick Hazelwood (Rupert Everett), who has suffered a stroke, much to her husband Tom’s dismay. However, Marion remains firm in her choice.
We then flashback to the ‘50s where a young Marion (Corrin) and Tom (Styles) first begin their relationship. The two head to a museum one day, where Tom introduces Marion to his friend and curator Patrick (David Dawson). The three become quite the inseparable trio, embarking on many outings together, from operas to pub stops. But it’s not all smooth sailing, as Marion begins to feel like the outlier of the bunch. She remains quiet about these feelings and soon enough Tom asks her to marry him, although their relationship clearly lacks genuine passion. Meanwhile, Tom is having an affair with Patrick, the pair hooking up at any chance, albeit with shame and self-disgust at times.
While there are elements to like about My Policeman, including its objectives and cinematography, any real passion and emotion in the film are often undersold mainly due to the lackluster and disjointed script. For example, at the beginning of the film, the premise is laid out just fine, but as the rest of the narrative unravels, it becomes muddled and shallow and feels very generic. The characters are written too thinly, the dialogue feels unnatural, and, overall, the story just doesn’t flow as well as it could, especially given the back and forth of the two timelines. It’s almost as if in crafting the script, elements from separate similar stories were simply thrown together, without adding in their own flair or ensuring the resulting piece was ironed out properly.
Because of these script problems, none of the performances are particularly worthwhile. Everyone is seemingly capable of pulling off the characters, but because each one lacks depth, there’s nothing much to work with. Even with the older versions of the characters seemingly being a tad more established and nuanced, there remains an awkwardness in the air.
Still, the tenderness of the film and the couple of emotive scenes throughout makes it just compelling enough to finish, and the final scenes of the film at least make it somewhat worth investing in. My Policeman is a fairly unimaginative picture overall, but the little moments carry it through.
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My Policeman certainly isn’t terrible, but its uninspired script definitely does it no favors.
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