REVIEW: My Policeman, BFI London Film Festival

This is a beautifully crafted story about forbidden love – but it does come across as though the characters despite the closeness of the central relationships feel a little bit detached from each other.

The complexities of love and being true to yourself are sensitively explored in Michael Grandage’s new film, which has the power to have a strong emotional impact on the audience – but it does feel as though in places there is a stiltedness to the screenplay that makes it feel slightly lacking in sincerity in places.

Based on the novel by Bethan Roberts and flitting from the past of 1950’s Brighton to the present day, the central story is focused on a love triangle between police officer Tom who feels obliged to marry his girlfriend Marion to help his career, while also trying to maintain a sadly forbidden relationship with Patrick. Given it is set in the 1950’s, this story and film does not flinch away from the brutality that took place towards homosexuals at this specific point in time. It is a story that filled with deep sadness and tragedy that can’t help but have an impact on the audience.

The screenplay by Ron Nyswaner has been sensitively written, although on occasion particularly when the tension between the three characters threatens to overspill – the way in which the dialogue doesn’t feel particularly dynamic enough to get to the heart of how the characters are really feeling, leaving a feeling a sense of isolation between the characters. However, some of the best moments tend to be as the older versions of Tom, Patrick and Marion reflect on certain aspects of the story, drawing the audience deep within them – beautifully acted by Gina McKee, Rupert Everett and Linus Roache. I almost wish that there is more interaction between these three, as it would deepen the feelings of regret and pain further. However, there is much to be appreciate elsewhere – including the way in which intimate scenes have been written and filmed, capture perfectly the tenderness between one relationship and the awkwardness in the other.

Michael Grandage has directed a film that is seamless, framing the story beautifully and ensuring that each of the characters get their share of sympathy and understanding within this complex story that is unfolding. All of them undergo a painful journey about what it means to be yourself, the freedom to love who you want to love and how to deal with betrayal. The numerous close up shots combined with Stephen Price’s emotion filled score captures the romance and the deep sadness that is threaded throughout the film perfectly. But it also has many moments which shock in terms of the attitude towards homosexuality – particularly in the wake of Patrick’s arrest and the language that Marion uses to describe Patrick when she confronts Tom about going to Venice – although understandable in the wake of her feelings of anger and betrayal has the power to make you re-evaluate her character. Meanwhile, the scenes at the cottage while intimate also feel claustrophobic as Tom and Marion realise what they have got themselves into.

There are some really stellar performances to be found. Gina McKee and Emma Corrin as Marion at different stages of her life are both equally beautifully poised – the grief and guilt of one, perfectly matched by the confusion and hurt of the other. Their performances are perfectly matched in every way, showing great depth and understanding. Elsewhere, equally mesmerising is David Dawson as the younger Patrick – he has a way with the script and bringing the character to life with detail and charisma that makes it difficult to focus your attention elsewhere. It is a heartbreaking and compelling performance. While Harry Styles conveys Tom’s confusion and battle with who he truly is, there feels as though he could have added a touch more dramatic weight to the more sensitive scenes – particularly in terms to his reaction to Marion’s accusations about Patrick and later when he breaks down as he discovers Patrick has been arrested. In these moments it feels as though he could have reached further down to really capture how the character is feeling.

Overall, despite some questionable dialogue that could have been worked on, this is a really delicate and thoughtful film that captures perfectly the complexity of human romantic relationships.

By Emma Clarendon

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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