‘My Policeman’ is a Gut-Punch Highlighting Love and Loss
This love is all-consuming.
Compared to the never-ending drama surrounding Don’t Worry Darling, Harry Styles’s newest movie has premiered with little fanfare. At the end of October, My Policeman had a limited release in theaters before its wider release streaming release to Amazon Prime on November 4th.
The film is based on the novel of the same name by Bethan Roberts. Using the real-life story of author E. M. Forster and his policeman Bob Buckingham as inspiration, Roberts worked within the era’s homophobia to create a tale of forbidden love. The story focused on the relationships between three people during two different time periods set roughly forty years apart and the ways in which true love defined all their lives. My Policeman takes you on an emotional rollercoaster to live the drama right alongside the main characters.
Everyone loves a man in uniform.
In the late 1950s, Tom (Harry Styles) and Patrick (David Dawson) fall deeply in love with each other. Patrick has always known he was gay and found a way to live his truth between the conservative lines set by society at the time. Tom, however, didn’t know who he was until he met Patrick. But Tom is also in a relationship with Marion (Emma Corin). For Tom, the relationship seemed to exist in a place of friendship, caring, and doing what is expected of him. Marion, sadly, worshiped everything about Tom and was blind to what his feelings really were.
When we see the characters in the present day, there has obviously been a huge rift in all of their relationships. Marion (Gina McKee) has taken over the care of an ailing Patrick (Rupert Everett), while Tom (Linus Roache) appears to have become an unfeeling shell of a person. The story unfolds to show how wonderful the love between Tom and Patrick could have been, if not for the horrific homophobia of the time. Instead of living happily ever after, their love shatters the lives of all three people involved.
The book AND the movie gave us so much.
As usual, the book goes deeper into this story than the movie. The book technically spans more time, starting back when Marion was about 16 years old. Tom is the brother of her friend and after first meeting him, Marion is instantly in love. Although their relationship doesn’t pick up until both she and Tom are adults with careers, she has already been pinning for him for years. Every interaction, conversation, glance, and accidental touch Marion cataloged and savored. Anyone who has been on the losing side of unrequited love can feel every inch of Marion’s painfully realistic longing. There is some of that in the movie, but nowhere near the depths of the novel.
Interestingly, the movie actually gives us something the book never did. The novel is told through passages written by Marion and Patrick. Both narrators are so in love with Tom that they border on unreliability. Sometimes it felt like they were more in love with the idea of Tom rather than the man himself (this is especially true for Marion). The book never showed us Tom, but in the movie, we got to see him firsthand. We saw his reactions, his glances, his joy, and his shame.
Both Styles and Roache play Tom beautifully. The film underlines the differences in Tom in the intimate moments he shared with both of his partners. When Tom and Marion are together, the scenes are almost painful to watch. With Patrick, there are unlimited feelings of happiness and passion. One of my favorite (and one of the saddest) parts of the movie is when older Tom sees an openly gay couple show public affection and he cries in his car, something we couldn’t witness in the book.
Although the story obviously has elements of sadness, the hope and joy interwoven left me feeling full rather than drained like so many movies like this do. I actually made it through the entire film without crying. That is until the final scene where I wept uncontrollably. I can’t stop thinking about it, but for once it is for all the right reasons. My Policeman showed us that love (even with heavy losses on all sides) can still find a way.
(featured image: Amazon Prime Studios)
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