My Policeman is a recent book-to-film adaptation, originally written by Bethan Roberts and adapted by theatre director Michael Grandage. The book is a heart-breaking reflection on three people and how their lives are intertwined and pulled apart by the homophobic attitudes of the UK in 1957.
The story follows a schoolteacher named Marion who falls in love with Tom Burgess, a young policeman. Tom also meets Patrick Hazelwood, who works in the museum as a curator and falls in love with him. Due to the political landscape, they must hide their love and confine their time together to Patrick’s apartment in order to avoid arrest. The narrative flicks through the past and the present, and different perspectives giving us a comprehensive outline of all the characters. Marion and Tom eventually marry, and we see how her life becomes no longer her own as Tom battles with the oppression that he faces, especially in his career as a policeman. This narrative is intertwined with the present, where we are aware of Tom’s refusal to see Patrick. Marion had insisted that Patrick live with them after his stroke, creating a huge space between all the characters.
The book is a commentary on how so many lives were negatively impacted by repressed attitudes in the 50s. In later years, we see how Tom’s inability to be himself has caused a miserable marriage for himself and Marion. To quote the book: “conventions, other people’s opinions, the law, all appear laughable in the face of your desire, you drive to reach your love. It’s a blissful state.” Marion learns to accept Tom and Patrick throughout the novel as she sees how natural and beautiful their love is, meanwhile, she never gets to live her own life. The story itself was based on E. M. Forster’s love affair with Bob Buckingham, a policeman who was married.
Harry Style’s acting has been a big discussion in this year. First with Don’t Worry Darling directed by Olivia Wilde and now My Policeman, he has been establishing a role as an actor on our screen. As a critic who doesn’t have a strong opinion on Harry Styles but admires his strong character (and his fashion sense), I didn’t have many thoughts on his acting going into either of the films, though I was excited for this book adaptation into screen!
In Don’t Worry Darling I feel as though there are parts that make Styles’ acting particularly difficult to watch, more so than in My Policeman, as despite his lack of acting experience, he captures the boyish and naïve charm of the young Tom Burgess. As an actor he has a high ceiling to improve, and being placed next to such actors as Emma Corrin and Florence Pugh only reminds us of this.
It is a slow story with drawn out scenes and a focus on setting, while also trying to illustrate characters’ feelings through the on-screen dynamics. The story itself relies on the time lost by the characters, making the feeling of time passing through the movie all the more evocative.
While I did enjoy the film, it’s painfully obvious why it has received a mixed reputation. The adaptations stay close to the book and its delivery is well done. I had hoped for a more impactful feature, but I will still be eagerly awaiting Harry Styles’ next role.
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