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Love in the Time of Phobia: A TIFF Review of ‘My Policeman’

September 18, 2022Ben MK

As a singer, Harry Styles has inspired legions of devoted fans, many of whom would gladly buy a plane ticket to fly halfway around the world just to see him perform live. Now, the former One Direction member and Grammy-winning solo artist is taking on his first leading role in director Michael Grandage's My Policeman, playing a strait-laced Brighton cop with a scandalous secret, who's struggling to come to terms with his sexual identity amidst the homophobia of 1957 England.

Based on the book by Bethan Roberts, the film follows Tom (Styles), schoolteacher Marion (Emma Corrin) and museum curator Patrick (David Dawson), three people who find themselves entangled in a love triangle of sorts, after Tom asks Marion to marry him, even though he's already in love — and engaged in a sexual relationship — with Patrick. But when someone reports Patrick to the authorities for being a homosexual and he's arrested and sentenced to prison, the closeness between Tom and Patrick is destroyed — seemingly for good. Fast forward four decades, and old emotional wounds that never truly healed are reopened once more when Marion (Gina McKee) invites Patrick (Rupert Everett), who has just had a stroke, to stay with her and Tom (Linus Roache). Can Tom finally overcome his own longstanding feelings of shame and guilt in order to mend the rift between himself and his former lover? Or will the events that transpired all those years earlier haunt them all to their graves?

A tale of forbidden love that speaks to the progress that has been made over the last 65 years, the result, ironically, does little to challenge genre norms. That said, although My Policeman suffers from being far too predictable, it's not without its virtues. After all, the only way to make the world a more inclusive place is to tell more stories such as this one. It's just a shame that this particular story ends up being such a dull affair.

My Policeman screens under the Special Presentations programme at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 53 min.

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