‘My Policeman’ Review: Two Love Affairs, Equally Tragic

A schoolteacher, her police officer husband and his lover deny each other romantic satisfaction in this dismal melodrama.

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By Teo Bugbee

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The melodrama “My Policeman” tells a decades-long story of a schoolteacher, a museum curator and the man they both love. The film is based on a novel of the same name, which took narrative inspiration from the relationship between the novelist E.M. Forster, his lover, who was a police officer, and his lover’s wife. Unfortunately, the historical record is more imaginative than the fictional story represented onscreen.

The film tells the story of a schoolteacher, Marion, her law enforcement husband, Tom, and his great love, Patrick. The trio start the movie in 1999 as retirees. Patrick (Rupert Everett) has suffered a stroke, and Marion (Gina McKee) welcomes him to convalesce in her home with Tom (Linus Roache). This reunion sparks Marion’s memory, and when she finds Patrick’s journals, she falls into reminiscence.

In flashbacks to their youth in 1957, Marion (played as a young woman by Emma Corrin) recalls Tom’s timid attempts at courtship. Tom (Harry Styles) introduced her to Patrick (David Dawson) under the pretext of impressing her with a trip to the museum. Patrick became a third wheel in their life as a couple, joining them for dates and trips out of town. Patrick’s diaries fill in the gaps of Marion’s memory, recounting a passionate affair with Tom that continued even after Tom and Marion married.

The director Michael Grandage smartly uses sets and costumes to emphasize the class differences between the characters. But Grandage struggles with animating such a dismal treatment of gay history. These are characters who are frustrated in love, prevented by law and by their own emotional repression from asking for what they want in their relationships. The stately treatment of their plight leads to a film that buckles under the weight of purgatorial disappointment.

My Policeman
Rated R for sexual content and nudity. Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes. In theaters.

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