Fall is normally the perfect time to make a warm drink, bundle up with a blanket, and watch something spooky or cozy. Movies with Halloween horrors, autumn colored-leaves, and witchy storylines come to mind. But this fall, I’d recommend a different movie to you, one set on the shorelines of Brighton, East Sussex, in England. Amazon Studios brings to life the pages of Bethan Robert’s My Policeman, out in theaters now and streaming on November 4th.
I originally discovered the story while aimlessly scanning the racks at Barnes and Noble over the summer. Thumbing through the colorful spines for another book to add to my ever-growing to-be-read list, I spotted it there on the shelf. I knew the movie was coming out, so I figured I would give the book a try. I ended up falling in love with this quaint little story, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing how it would hold up to a film adaptation.
I’m a firm believer that the book is almost always better than the movie. My Policeman is no exception. The film is a faithful if not a paired-down adaptation of the book, and while it falls short of being a truly exceptional film, it’s still a charming, heartbreaking, and passionate story on its own.
My Policeman tells the split-perspective tale of Marion Taylor (Emma Corrin) and Patrick Hazelwood (David Dawson), a school teacher and a museum curator who both fall in love with Tom Burgess (Harry Styles), a policeman in their ocean-side town. Tom engages in a romantic affair with Patrick while marrying Marion to keep up the appearances of his heterosexuality, quickly entangling the three of them into a tricky triangle that could have serious consequences if it fell apart. Set between the 1950s and the modern-day when the trio is much older, you see how their choices in the past have affected their futures, way down the line when one of them is dealing with the fallout of a serious stroke.
What My Policeman brings to the screen in gorgeous sets, beautiful cinematography, and a wonderful soundtrack, it lacks in screenwriting. Dialogue is, in places, rudimentary and unintentionally awkward, failing to support the complex characters it has at its disposal. The ending wraps up a little too quickly, leaving the story’s biggest reveals feeling unearned and not fully resolved.
My Policeman attempts to strike a balance between queer love and the ideologies of the time. Homosexuality was illegal in England during the 1950s and would remain illegal until the late 60s, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any queer relationships during that period. To demonstrate this, the film attempts to portray the fear of getting caught and the joy of finding love. It pulls off the drama of the story without feeling too dower and reminds you of the stakes so you don’t get too comfortable during the good times. The actors have chemistry, and you feel for them when they’re hurt. You root for their relationships, as messy as they might become.
Among the cast, it’s Dawson and Linus Roache that steal the show. Dawson is a wonderful actor, expertly portraying Patrick’s quiet confidence in himself and his sexuality despite the mindsets of the period. In the modern-day storyline, it’s Roache’s performance of the older Tom Burgess that struck a chord. Tom is dealing with history he never came to terms with all while living in a society that’s finally beginning to open up to all sexualities and genders. Roache perfectly portrays a man reckoning with himself, his emotions, and the constantly-changing world he’s living in.
Overall, the film is content to say its piece and let it lie rather than dig into the complexities of the platonic love and internalized homophobia it showcases. If the story had been allowed to expand for more commentary on these ideas, break them down and examine how we can love (and hurt) each other in so many different ways, perhaps it could’ve been something truly exceptional.
So in the meantime, if you’re looking for a cozy and (at times) touching film to enjoy as we transition into the holiday season, My Policeman will be waiting for you.