A heartbreaking and relatable tale
All love stories are tragic, aren’t they? Well, no, not all of them, but when one of the protagonists in My Policeman raises this question, you will probably assume the love story within this film is likely to end tragically.
Based on Bethan Robert’s novel of the same name, this period drama takes place in 1950’s Brighton and it is centred around the love story between closeted young policeman Tom Burgess (Harry Styles) and museum curator Patrick Hazelwood (David Dawson).
As homosexual activity was illegal at the time, the two have to carry out their love affair in secret. Their life is made very difficult as a consequence but the situation is made more complicated by the fact that Tom is engaged to be married to schoolteacher Marion (Emma Corrin). When she discovers what the two are getting up to behind her back, she makes a decision that will drastically affect all of their lives. Does this result in the expected tragedy?
Well, I’m not going to detail much more about the plotting as I don’t want to reveal any spoilers. But as you can probably expect, the chances of a happy ending for any of the film’s protagonists are slim because of the secrets they keep and the lies they tell one another. Director Michael Grandage’s film tells a very sad tale and it is one that will be relatable to anybody who has kept their sexuality hidden for fear of the repercussions that might follow if truths are revealed.
Still, this isn’t a film that is completely steeped in doom and gloom, despite the heartbreak that each of the main characters go through. There is some joy to be had for us and Tom and Patrick when they enjoy their rare moments of freedom together, and while we know things aren’t likely to end well for that pairing or for Tom and Marion, there are moments when they all experience happiness during the film’s intricate plotting.
We don’t have to wait until the end of the film to know how their individual stories pan out as we regularly flash-forwards to the late 1990’s to see what has become of each character. The narrative is stripped of a few surprises as a consequence but there is still room for one more twist before the closing credits start to roll on this emotion-filled drama.
The film is very well made, with a production design that expertly captures the 1950’s setting, and excellent acting from all the main leads, including Rupert Everett, Linus Roach, and Gina McKee who take on the roles of the older Tom, Patrick, and Marion when the film jumps forward in time.
Special mention must go to former boy band member Harry Styles who gives a sensitive performance as young Tom. Some critics have been unkind about his acting in this film, calling his performance awkward and stilted, but they are being overly harsh as that awkwardness befits the sexually confused character he plays.
On the evidence of this role, he could have a strong career in film, which isn’t something that can be said about every musician who has tried to make the move into acting.
Grandage’s direction is strong but some scenes in the film are quite dark and as such, it can sometimes be hard to make out exactly what is going on. But rather than being a fault with the lighting, it might be that this is Grandage’s intent. Whether it’s Marion secretly reading through Patrick’s diaries or Tom and Patrick cuddling up together in bed, one could argue that the darkness serves as the director’s way to illustrate each character’s need to blend into the shadows in case they are discovered by those they are hiding from.
Elsewhere, the film is bright and colourful, from the scenes on Brighton beach where our protagonists playfully hang out with one another to the scenes of Tom and Patrick vacationing in Venice and enjoying one another’s company. The brightness of these visuals equates to the freedom each character feels in these moments and they are a welcome relief from the moments of narrative and photographed gloom that reminds us of the threats they face within their relationships.
For the most part, My Policeman is a gripping movie, despite the occasionally slow pace, and there are moments when it is absolutely heartbreaking. A scene involving Patrick being arrested for his homosexuality is particularly upsetting but there are other sequences which are likely to pull at your heartstrings, especially if you can relate to the experiences of the characters at the heart of this emotive tale.
I’m not only talking about the gay characters either. Marion goes on her own journey in this film as the woman whose chances of happiness are affected by the men in her life and if you have ever discovered you have been cheated on, it might be that you can resonate with her stifled pain.
The film is streaming on Prime Video now and it’s definitely worth checking out if you haven’t yet done so. The themes of loss and wasted opportunities will resonate with more than just the LGBTQ+ community but if you are gay and afraid to bring your sexuality out into the open, My Policeman will especially strike a chord with you.
Read More: My Policeman Ending Explained
Verdict - 7.5/10