Not every love story gets a happy ending. The more passionate the romance, the more tragic its evolution and eventual dissolution may be. There are also people who get together and stay together yet never feel the passion they read about in books or see in movies but accept that not every marriage or partnership is the stuff of legends. My Policeman explores two parallel love stories from a nostalgic perspective, checking in on the three people involved as they think back on their roles in events decades earlier.
Marion (Gina McKee) agrees to take in Patrick (Rupert Everett) after he has had a stroke, something that her husband Tom (Linus Roache) dislikes immensely. As Marion struggles to communicate with the mostly nonverbal and irritable Patrick, she recalls when the three of them first met. Marion (Emma Corrin) was immediately taken with Tom (Harry Styles), a young and friendly policeman. Patrick (David Dawson), a museum curator, was equally charmed by Tom, exploring his own secret relationship behind closed doors while befriending Marion and spending time with the public heterosexual couple on a regular basis.
My Policeman is based on the novel of the same name by Bethan Roberts and gets its title from the way that Patrick adoringly refers to his lover in his eloquent diary entries. The use of that descriptor is particularly charged in 1950s Britain since homosexuality is a crime, and both men know that, if they are found out, they face certain jail time and miserable treatment from all who will disown them. But they are hopeless to stay away from each other, and it is Tom’s knowledge that he must find a way to keep up appearances that ultimately comes between them since he cannot lead a committed life to two different people at the same time.
The structure of My Policeman is compelling, framing Tom as an object of affection who is initially the central character in Marion’s story and then comes into even sharper focus in Patrick’s. The flashes to the present where Tom refuses to walk down the hall to acknowledge his debilitated houseguest indicate a great deal of pain and repression, and Marion is the one who must bear witness to it, first as a young woman seeing her husband drawn to someone else and in older age as Tom refuses to look back at what mattered to him in his past.
My Policeman is anchored by two phenomenal performances from Styles and Dawson. When their characters first meet, Tom jumps to be helpful to the man who has requested his assistance dealing with the aftermath of a theft and exhibits such a gentle friendliness that Patrick can’t help but be entranced. Styles and Dawson convey the deep feelings Tom and Patrick have for each other and also the way that they must mask who they are for fear of having their affair and perceived perversion discovered. Corrin and McKee are also well-matched, showing what it’s like to be the third person in a relationship who may end up as one of the last two standing but is still required to give something of herself up in the process.
The strong cast is assisted by beautiful camerawork that allows its three protagonists to stand out in each scene, adorned in elegant period clothing and surrounded by art and life. The scenes set in the present become more relevant and poignant as the past that shapes them is revealed, and the film reaches a heartfelt and lingering conclusion that can’t address everything that has happened but provides a solid start. These characters feel vibrant, flawed, and utterly alive, existing so vehemently in their happiest moments and resigned to misery and torment when what they all want isn’t able to be attained.
Following its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, My Policeman will be released in theaters on October 21st and on Prime Video on November 4th.