MY POLICEMAN: 3 STARS. “melodramatic romantic tragedy.”
Told on a broken timeline with dual storylines, “My Policeman,” starring Harry Styles, and now streaming on Prime Video, is the story of friendship, interwoven relationships and secrecy.
Based on the novel of the same name by Bethan Roberts, the film revolves around three characters, visited in 1998 Britain with flashbacks to 1957.
When we first meet Tom, Marion and Patrick, played in latter day by Linus Roache, Gina McKee and Rupert Everett, it is Tony Blair-era England. Former museum curator Patrick has suffered a severe stroke and retired teacher Marion is caring for him in his recovery even though her husband Tom wants nothing to do with their ailing guest. “He was always in your life,” Marion reminds Tom, “in our lives.”
Flash back in time 40 years. Tom and Marion, now played by Styles and Emma Corrin as a fresh-faced young police officer and school teacher, are falling in love. “He’s just perfect,” she says. “He’s Tom.”
In an effort to impress Marion, Tom introduces her to high-minded museum curator Patrick, now played by David Dawson. As their friendship blossoms, Marion suspects the connection between the two men is something more than platonic.
Sure enough, before you can say “throuple,” Tom and Patrick have formed a romantic bond and have become clandestine lovers. The true depth of their love, however, doesn’t become clear to Marion until she reads Patrick’s diary, as he convalesces in her home forty years later.
“My Policeman” is a beautiful looking but somewhat dull exercise in melancholy. Every frame is touched with a certain kind of wistfulness, which, over time, gives way to a sort of solemn melodrama. A fiery heat should ignite in this story of complicated emotions and prejudice, but here it is barely a glowing ember, scarcely enough to illuminate the film’s underlying themes.
In the performances, restraint is the name of the game. The English reserve on display is palpable, which befits a story set in a time when homosexuality was illegal in Britain, but it does hold much of the drama at arm’s length.
As young Patrick, Dawson introduces passion to the film, effectively portraying the character’s nuanced wit, fervor, pain and charm.
Of Marion’s portrayers, McKee takes the edge, giving the elderly woman a weathered view on life as a person with regrets who attempts to atone (NO SPOILERS HERE) for the actions of her younger self.
Styles, the over-the-title star, earns kudos for applying his talents to challenging roles like this and his work in “Don’t Worry Darling,” but stacked up against his co-stars here, the sense of longing and emotion necessary to form a believable character, is missing from his take on Tom.
“My Policeman” is an elegant, but dry, movie that should be a fierce hymn against prejudice and the erosion of personal freedoms but settles for melodramatic romantic tragedy.