Nothing is more valuable than time. There is tragedy in time wasted, particularly when that wasted time could have been spent with people you love. Director Michael Grandage (Red 2010, Genius 2016) explores time, love, and regret in My Policeman, an adaptation of Bethan Robert’s novel of the same name. This latest film from Amazon studios garnered quite a bit of buzz following its festival screenings, and you can catch it yourself when it releases in select theaters October 21st, followed by a wide release on Prime Video Nov 4th.
The film follows Marion (Gina McKee: Atonement 2007, Phantom Thread 2017) and her somber husband Tom (Linus Roache: Batman Begins 2005, Non-Stop 2014) as recent stroke victim Patrick (Rupert Everett: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children 2016, The Happy Prince 2018) comes to their sleepy seaside home to convalesce. Tom does everything in his power to avoid Patrick, whose arrival broadens the clear cracks in Tom and Marion’s relationship. At first, it is unclear why Tom is constantly taking to the rocky shores to avoid Patrick, or why Marion feels compelled to take in Patrick in the first place.
The mystery begins to unravel when Marion discovers a box containing Patrick’s detailed journals from forty years earlier. From there, the story jumps back and forth between the present and the past, where younger Tom (Harry Styles: Dunkirk 2017, Don’t Worry Darling 2022), Marion (Emma Corrin: The Crown 2020, Anna X 2021), and Patrick (David Dawson: Years of the Rabbit series, The Last Kingdom series) become embroiled in complex relationships filled with secrets. As art expert Patrick and policeman Tom begin to fall in love during a time when homosexuality was considered a crime, Tom enters a marriage of convenience with Marion. Though the three become great friends for a time, the secrets and lies begin to tear them apart irreparably when faced with the choice to conform to a hateful society or live truthfully.
My Policeman is a quiet film about ordinary people—though it is hard to reconcile “ordinary” with a star like Styles—that finds its power in the ordinary. Set in a sleepy seaside English town gorgeously displayed by cinematographer Ben Davis (Captain Marvel 2019, The King’s Man 2021), the film delves into the ways in which ordinary love, and what we are willing to do to keep it, can cause ripples of regret that can last decades. As we travel between past and present, we travel equally between love and grief as the tragic affairs between Tom, Marion, and Patrick weave together.
As the character’s worlds fall apart, Grandage is sure to prod at an unforgiving society and brutal police force while being sympathetic to the queer experience. Many of its main cast members are queer, as well. With an abundance of queer stories being told on screen in recent years, My Policeman does not necessarily add anything new to the conversation. However, the film is beautifully shot—clearly inspired by the J.M.W. Turner paintings that Patrick, Tom, and Marion bond over—with some truly stand-out performances.
There is little doubt that many will be tuning in to My Policeman simply because of its star. Styles is granted top billing in the film’s opening credits and is a huge draw for a film that might not otherwise reach a larger audience. However, Dawson easily steals the show. He is mesmerizing to watch as young Patrick endures all the joy and tragedy that comes with being a queer person in a society that criminalizes your very existence. Dawson’s effortless charisma and passion make it easy to see why Tom would fall for Patrick. Styles does not quite have the acting chops to match just yet; it is difficult to believe that both Patrick and Marion risk it all for him. Sure, he gives his most promising performance to date, but he can’t quite stand up to Dawson and Corrin’s undeniable charms.
While regret and wasted time play a major role in My Policeman, it is peppered with tinges of hope, happiness, and more than a few intimate that are necessary in contemporary queer films. With that in mind, My Policeman will likely be a part of the conversation come awards season. Dawson’s performance alone is worth consideration. It may not be the most exciting film of the year, but it is visually stunning and easily worth your two hours and Prime subscription. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives My Policeman 3.5 out of 5 stars.