MY POLICEMAN – movie review


Prime Video
Reviewed for &, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Michael Grandage
Screenwriter: Ron Nyswaner, based on the novel by Bethan Roberts
Cast: Gina McKee, Linus Roache, Rupert Everett, Harry Styles, Emma Corrin, David Dawson, Kadiff Kirwan
Screened at: Prime Video streaming
Opens: October 21, 2022 in theaters. November 4, 2022 streaming

When Oscar Wilde was convicted of a homosexual affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, sixteen years his junior, we can see that the pendulum swings back and forth, from a perverse interest in jailing people for victimless crimes to a broad acceptance today of gay relationships. In fact, so far as historians know, beginning in 600 B.C., in Celtic Britain when a man hosted a gathering, a dinner party, or whatever and his male guest rebuffed his advances, the host would feel insulted just as he might if you refused today to share scones with him at tea. Diodorus Siciulus, a Sicilian historian during the 1st century BC, noted “Though Celtic women were beautiful, men preferred to sleep with each other.” (Courtesy Wikipedia.)

Homosexual relations are legal today in the UK, via bills introduced in 1958 to decriminalize them. Bethan Roberts in his year 2021 novel “My Policeman,” adapted for the screen by scripter Ron Nyswaner, focuses on a just three people with various nuanced feelings about gay activity. “My Policeman” is directed by Yorkshire-born Michael Grandage, whose “Genius” deals with Max Perkins as book editor of Scribner. Now he makes a dramatic turn, honing on three people as they were in 1958 and as they are forty-one years later on the cusp of a new century.

Often films that alternate between two eras can be confusing, but here they compliment each other to a fault. Opening on a miserable, wheelchair-bound Patrick (Rupert Everett), felled by a serious stroke and virtually incapable of clear speech, “My Policeman” shows the poor man cared for by Marion (Gina McKee) but resented by Marion’s husband Tom (Linus Roach) who wants his wife to send Patrick to a nursing home. You might wonder about the division in loyalties, given that four decades earlier Tom (Harry Styles) is a best friend with benefits to Patrick (David Dawson).

Tom is bisexual, a poorly educated cop, whose life changes when attended to by Patrick, a museum curator whose mission becomes helping Tom to better himself aesthetically. Tom, a beer drinker who might well be a fan of Donald Trump were he born in the U.S., is attracted to the sophisticated Patrick, who if born in the States could be a Bernie Sanders voter. Posing for Patrick, an accomplished sketcher, Tom is seduced and swept into a new kind of life: Scotch instead of beer, Verdi and “Anna Karenina” opposed to TV, the two become enmeshed in a new passion, in one instance escaping from a police bust when they are discovered kissing in a dark alley. Patrick is beaten and imprisoned: Tom escapes.

At the same time Tom, who would have it both ways, is conflicted. He also wants a wife and a family. Marrying Marion (Emma Corrin), an elementary school teacher, he keeps his other love interest from her, lying about his involvement with the man who had introduces them to concerts and museums. Marion, wanting to put the past away and move on with her marriage, nevertheless comes to Patrick’s aid at a trial, serving as a character witness while trying to avoid implicating her husband.

Grandage does not shy away from nude sex scenes, which are graphic yet not sensationalized. Ben Davis behind the lenses shows a Brighton that can be compared with Coney Island, a depressing place with cheap amusements not unlike the penny arcades of its Brooklyn counterpart. Emma Corrin stands out as one who would go along with the 93% of Brits who in the mid-20th century considered the gay life with disgust, trying to save her marriage even while pondering whether to throw in the towel and walk away for good. As the story gives way to a melodramatic conclusion, we viewers can look back and marvel how well the tale has been told, how the six characters change from youthful passions to people who in some ways have not really grown. “My Policeman” is a class act with political dimensions; an endearing but not sentimentalized picture which nonetheless may find enlightened viewers reaching for Kleenex.

113 minutes. © 2022 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – A-