One of the things we love about the Fall is getting those comfort films that we just want to watch while snuggled under a nice toasty blanket. After watching My Policeman starring Harry Styles, David Dawson, and Emma Corrin we just found a new one. Now, I realize it might sound a bit strange to say a Romance film as devastating as My Policeman is a comfort film, but it is. A comfort film can be anything that we feel evokes a certain set of emotions in us. My Policeman does that.
My Policeman based on the novel by Bethan Roberts “follows three young people — policeman Tom (Styles), teacher Marion (Corrin), and museum curator Patrick (Dawson) — as they embark on an emotional journey in 1950s Britain. Flashing forward to the 1990s, Tom (Linus Roache), Marion (Gina McKee), and Patrick (Rupert Everett) are still reeling with longing and regret, but now they have one last chance to repair the damage of the past.”
When My Policeman starts it immediately throws the viewer right into the home of Marion and Tom in the 1990s. Patrick, Tom’s former lover is being dropped off by his caregivers after having a stroke. Marion has volunteered to take him into their home to take care of him. Because I have not read the book yet, I was confused. I found myself questioning why a woman would volunteer to take in a man who had an affair with their husband and take care of them.
Even Tom is stunned that Marion would bring Patrick into their home. So much so, he won’t even go and visit him when he’s only a few feet down the hall. The only thing that Director Michael Grandage alludes to is that Marion is feeling guilty about something. We do ultimately find out what it is Marion is feeling guilty about so her choice to take care of Patrick makes sense but then at the same time you question if Marion is doing that for Patrick or to make herself feel better for her mistakes.
My Policeman flashes back and forth between 1990 and the 1950s when Tom and Marion got together. Tom is a young guy with a kind disposition and Marion is immediately taken by him. Their relationship begins when Tom offers to teach Marion how to swim in exchange for some good book recommendations. Soon the swimming lessons turn into more as they spend more time together.
In all honesty, their relationship feels more like a friendship than boyfriend and girlfriend. Now, I know that’s how most relationships begin but Tom and Marion’s relationship lacks passion, and he never truly shows her the type of affection a boyfriend would show his girlfriend. And that is of course because he’s hiding the fact that he is a gay man. The reason Tom has to hide his identity is that homosexuality is a crime at that time and men are being prosecuted for it. Because Tom works as a Policeman he sees what happens to them. Therefore, he can’t truly be himself.
When Patrick comes into Tom’s life everything changes. As My Policeman flashes back to the 1990s, we see Marion going through Patrick’s belongings. While looking through a box he owns, she stumbles upon his old journals. At first, she’s hesitant to read them because they don’t belong to her and those are Patrick’s private thoughts. The curiosity of course wins out and she starts to read them.
My Policeman is essentially told from Marion’s perspective but not. Sure, she’s the one reading the journals but, we’re still watching Tom and Patrick’s love story unfold it’s just that we’re seeing it through Marion’s eyes. It’s interesting because as the viewer watches the first parts of the film, as Tom, Marion, and Patrick interact it appears that something could be blossoming between Marion and Patrick and Tom is merely an observer. That is essentially how Marion’s perspective seems.
When Marion cracks open Patrick’s journal, she learns that in those moments when she was spending time with both Tom and Patrick they were secretly falling in love, and she was the third wheel. That isn’t to say that Marion didn’t always know that something deeper was happening between Tom and Patrick, it’s just that she didn’t realize they had formed a connection so early in her and Tom’s relationship.
The reason Tom and Patrick were able to form such a deep connection right away is that they are both in similar situations. Granted, Patrick works in an art gallery and is a bit more sophisticated and open. Still, he and Tom feel an undeniable spark. Patrick represents a sense of freedom for Tom because when they are together, he can be himself. When they are out in public spaces, they have to hide who they are. But, behind closed doors when it’s just Tom and Patrick, there are no restrictions.
Their relationship is intense and Grandage did a fantastic job of capturing their moments together. You can see the difference in how Tom is with Patrick versus when he’s with Marion. The tension is palpable and their passion for one another comes through in such a beautiful way onscreen. At the same time that I was falling in love with Tom and Patrick and rooting for them, my heart was also breaking for Marion.
You can’t help but feel sad for her because she is really in love with Tom. Even when she senses something is different about their relationship and catches him and Patrick in a moment of intimacy, she refuses to give up on it. She makes a lot of sacrifices and even though she ultimately does something that affects all three of them in a major way, it’s hard not to understand how she came to make the choice she did. It’s a conflicting moment for sure.
That’s not to say that Tom and Patrick are without fault because they certainly are not. And you’re going to have moments of being upset with them too because I did. There were a lot of things that they could have handled differently. Also, Patrick can come off as a little selfish when it comes to his relationship with Tom. He knows what he wants and to him, it should be easy for Tom to just up and leave Marion.
Tom can’t let go of Marion either. Though he loves Patrick with everything he has, he also loves Marion. His love for Marion is different than how he feels about Patrick, but she means a great deal to him. She’s his best friend and he cannot imagine his life without her. It seems selfish that he didn’t just come right out and tell her he had feelings for Patrick but given the world, he lived in that just wasn’t an option.
Even in their old age, Tom and Marion are still making sacrifices and their relationship hasn’t changed from when they were younger. Tom has resigned himself to what he believes a happy marriage is supposed to be but it’s clear that he and Marion are not as happy together as they try to act. They are merely companions who settled because they felt like they had to due to what society told them all those decades ago. And they are still letting their past rule their present because of fear.
Patrick has also spent his life in a state of unhappiness. Unlike Tom, he always knew who he was. He took a lot of risks to have his relationship with Tom even if it meant the possibility of them both losing their careers and being locked up if they were caught. Even after Tom married Marion, Patrick just couldn’t move on.
He loved Tom far too much to just give up on him so they continued to have an affair. When he and Tom were ultimately separated, Patrick never stopped thinking about him or loving him. It’s clear that he was never able to truly move on and the fact that Tom won’t even talk to him now is heartbreaking.
Every single member of the cast for My Policeman is so talented and they all embodied their characters so well. Mckee, Roache, and Everett play the older versions of Marion, Tom, and Patrick in such an honest and real way. They have a lot of moments filled with quiet contemplation but when they do interact with one another, they command your attention.
Corrin, Dawson, and Styles also delivered amazing performances but the standout for me was Harry for sure. I’m not just saying this because I am a fan of Harry Styles. Singing and acting are a different wheelhouse. We already know Corrin can deliver because she’s amazing in The Crown. My Policeman is Styles’s first lead role, and I thought he was incredible. I know his performance is generating Oscar buzz in some places and he already won an award for it during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last month.
My Policeman was an emotionally taxing film and Tom goes through a lot of them. Styles can capture them perfectly. As I watched it, I did not feel like I was just watching Harry Styles in a movie. I felt Tom’s pain, his vulnerability, and those conflicting emotions he was dealing with while trying to process both his feelings for Tom and Marion. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. And that’s not just because he’s Harry Styles.
Although My Policeman does lag in some places and the ending feels a bit rushed, it is still a very good film. It is not just a love story, it’s a story about friendship, forgiveness, and living your truth. But it also reminds us that it is never too late to start over.