Story of fragile love triangle deeply human
(UK, US, 2022)
Directed by Michael Grandage
Review by Iva Apostolova
Although My Policeman swiped this year’s ensemble TIFF Tribute Actor Award, I was reluctant to devote two hours of my time to it, mainly because of Harry Styles’ casting. There is no denying that Harry Styles is a mega pop-star but when it comes to his acting chops, I have found them somewhat wanting. The plot summary, however, convinced me to bite the bullet and give it a shot. I was not disappointed.
My Policeman, I soon discovered, had everything I love about British cinematography. The monochrome esthetic, perfectly in sync with the gray and rainy Brighton where the story takes place, gives the movie its delightful melancholic overtone à la Atonement. It is a slow-burning and achingly tender love story whose ending is the only thing that makes it stop short of being tragic, in the Classical Greek theatre sense. It reminded me of the two-part 2017 BBC movie Man in an Orange Shirt, starring Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Vanessa Redgrave. Both movies tell the story of two men who, despite themselves, fall in love, at a time when homosexuality is a punishable crime in the UK with guaranteed jail time, or worse, for the offenders. What I found really compelling about My Policeman, however, is that it tells a deeply human and not just a political story.
Young, handsome, Brighton policeman Tom (Harry Styles), despite being in denial, falls madly in love with the art museum curator Patrick (David Dawson) who, unlike Tom, knows who he is and whom he loves. But Tom’s emotional dependence yearns for what society at the time deems a normal life. That’s where young Marion (Emma Corrin), an elementary school teacher, comes onto the stage. But the story doesn’t end with the impossibly fragile love triangle that ensues. Director Michael Grandage (his debut film was the 2016 Genius starring Jude Law and Colin Firth) masterfully transports the story from 1958 to today, with a series of flashbacks, when aged Tom, Patrick and Marion come together once more to bring the unfinished story to its logical end.
I found that it is precisely this fast forwarding that brings the perfect balance between the two key ingredients of any romantic love story: the erotic (the viewer will be treated to beautifully choreographed nude love scenes between the young Tom and Patrick) and the caring (every gesture that passes between the aged Tom, Patrick and Marion is deliberate and pregnant with meaning). What is more, Grandage has managed to skillfully shift the dramatic weight from the young and emotionally naïve Tom, played by the young and dramatically inexperienced Harry Styles, to the very talented Linus Roache who plays the aged Tom. Roache’s gravitas as a trained stage actor does the heavy lifting and brings the story to its cathartic resolution when his character is finally forced to confront the past. This subdued yet deeply emotionally charged human tale about love and loss is set against the ideal backdrop – the rugged beauty of Brighton’s coastline where waves thrash against the rocks.
Running time: 1h 53m
Rating: 16+ (UK) / R (US)
Available on Amazon Prime
Iva Apostolova is a professor of philosophy at Dominican University College and a film aficionado.