Festivals, Reviews

TIFF 2022: ‘My Policeman’ — a Beautifully Shot yet Average Gay Movie

Adapted from the novel of the same name, My Policeman centers on three individuals in 1950s post-war Britain: Marion, a schoolteacher played by Emma Corrin; Patrick, a museum curator played by David Dawson; and Tom, a policeman played by Harry Styles. What seems like a love triangle on the surface is a much more complicated relationship; what follows is a story of tenderness, secrecy, deception, and wasted time revealing Tom and Patrick’s secret affair.

With direction by known theatre director Michael Grandage and a screenplay by Ron Nyswaner, My Policeman is a well-made film with gorgeous shots and a moving score. Yet the story is predictable and has confusing character motivations, particularly Marion’s. Marion is the tragic housewife who chooses to stay with Tom, and her decision, at the end of the film, emphasizes the theme of wasted time. Wasted time is a big theme in many LGBTQ films, and this film resolves it underwhelmingly, especially compared to others like Portrait of a Lady on Fire. There is nothing new in this film.

Perhaps reading the book beforehand would give a much better context on the characters’ motivations, but without prior exposure to the novel, the film lacks that context.

Aside from the underwhelming narrative, the film was well-done overall. You got to hand it to the British with their period pieces. The 50s setting looks alive and colorful even though Patrick and Tom are in terrible circumstances as gay men in that era; while the present has a duller look as the characters deal with the decisions they made forty years ago. Cinematographer Ben Davis is a master of his craft, with each frame beautifully shot, especially the sex scenes between Tom and Patrick. 

Which segues me to the cast. This film’s main selling point is Harry Styles as its leading man. But while his name appears onscreen before the main title, do not believe this is Styles’ film. This is a film carried by its ensemble cast.

Styles can get monotonous in his line deliveries and stiff in his acting. Emma Corrin, fresh off The Crown, delivers nuances on a character that is so clueless and isn’t any different from their Princess Diana portrayal. Dawson’s Patrick is devastating as the museum curator who helps Tom explore his sexuality. 

Overall, My Policeman as an LGBTQ film is nothing new. It is a conventional narrative film typical of any British period piece that comes out at least once a year.

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