Reviews by Joyce Glasser My policeman (October 21, 2022) Certificate 15, 113 min.

Having been the artistic director of Sheffield Theaters and then the Donmar Warehouse in London, it’s no surprise that when theater director Michael Grandage turned to film direction, he was drawn to literary life in his directorial debut. Genius. Despite the cool reception of this film, the appeal is so strong when life has so much to say about us or our parents that Grandage returns from My policeman. His new film stars heartthrob musician Harry Styles, in his second film set in the oppressive 1950s after Don’t worry dear, with a meatier role. In addition to his film’s quality as art and entertainment, Grandage is able to engage an unlikely audience with the work of E.M. Forster’s Ivory Merchant muse.

You can watch My policeman without even knowing it was based on a book by Bethon Roberts, which is based in part on writer EM Forster’s relationship with a much younger married police officer. Although Grandage and screenwriter Ron Niswaner (Philadelphia), manages to capture the stifling, bleak atmosphere of 1950s England and the forbidden passions struggling to break free from societal conventions, you can’t help but wish Todd Haynes would try his hand at screenwriting.

Marion (Gina McKee), an attractive woman in her fifties, picks up Patrick Hazelwood, an overgrown, silent wheelchair-bound stroke survivor (Rupert Everett), from the hospital along with his personal effects, which we’re told “went to the hospital when he sold the house.” They had to be locked up.

First impressions count, and unfortunately the film is weighed down by this opening flashback, which instills confusion throughout most of the film (more on that later). We have a revealing shot of a large, comfortable house across the road from the sea in Sussex, but Marion’s relationship with silent patient Patrick is unknown. As his volunteer nurse, it gets awkwardly intimate. We only realize how awkward it is when we return to the flashback in the third part of the film.

Trying to warm the freezing room, Marion shows an unresponsive Patrick a newspaper article announcing that Turner Prize shortlist Tracey Emin My bed, adding that she would like to see it. “You taught me art,” she reminds him. But what he taught her husband causes him to scream for her to leave him alone. This exchange dates back to the current time of 1998, the year the Bolton Seven dispute paved the way for the Civil Partnership Act six years later.

Marion’s husband, Tom (Linus Roche), wants nothing to do with the unwanted visitor and wants to be taken to the spare room. “He’s not a prisoner, you know,” Marion replies. We don’t know what made Patrick so hostile to Tom, but we’re beginning to suspect he’s protesting too much.

Mysteries are unraveled in the highly entertaining, best part of the film as we travel back to the 1950s and the courtship of virginal trainee school teacher Marion (Emma Corrine, excellent) and trainee police officer Tom (Harry Styles). The two, who remember each other from elementary school, begin a relationship when Tom, a new police recruit, is stationed near Brighton. He asks Marion to recommend some books for him to read in exchange for swimming lessons (a chance for Marion and the fans to see her future husband’s body). The courtship is cute, nostalgic, but platonic.

At the same time that Marion falls in love with Tom, despite the cultural differences between them, Tom meets Patrick during his police work. Patrick is an artist and curator at the Brighton Museum, older and more accomplished than Tom, who falls for Patrick, would you like to see my etching routine. Scared and reluctant to admit his attraction to Patrick and mindful of his job upholding the town’s decency laws, Tom’s initiative is filled with emotion that Stiles, to his credit, conveys well.

Tom introduces Marion to Patrick, who gives tours of the museum for school groups (you wonder why she knew Patrick before). When Patrick takes them to the opera and to a museum, he throws Marion a culture-loving bone to stay close to Tom. Soon the three of them even, as is revealed after Tom and Marion’s wedding night, when he shows up to prepare a champagne dinner.

We feel sorry for Marion, sexually unfulfilled and full of doubts about her husband’s sexuality, but we understand why she stays with him after spotting two men touching in the woodshed the day after their wedding night. Divorce carried its own stigma in the 1950s. But when the two men go on a fake business trip together to Venice (the city she tells both of them she would most like to see), her impetuous desire for revenge blows up in her face.

It’s great to see Everett and Roach reunited after a quarter of a century The wings of a dove the casting is curious. The confusion mentioned earlier comes from the fact that the younger Patrick is played by David Dawson, who looks nothing like his older counterpart (Rupert Everett), but bears a strong resemblance to the older Linus Roach (Tom). Because Stiles looks nothing like Roach, you can watch the entire movie while mentally switching to the distracting visuals.

Although Marion did not stop working when she married, which was common at the time, you may wonder how a policeman and school teacher (could afford such a beautiful, large house by the sea. Patrick had to sell the house, showing that he was able to work for a living, although the middle years are not dramatized. What is partly dramatized in a slightly macabre way are Patrick’s candid diaries, which Marion reads when she needs to delve into the past.

Both Tom and Marion make sacrifices for the sake of a dismal marriage, which seems the most practical solution to their disarray. But when – no doubt thanks to the diaries – Marion makes a big decision, you wonder why it took her so long.

With the exception of a clever school teacher (who ironically happens to be a lesbian), Marion has no friends or family she can confide in, and neither does Tom. What are they talking about? What do they do all day in a house by the sea? Poor Roach, McKee and Everett have little to do as actors either. The ending, with Marion’s noble gesture and the perfect, satisfying finale to this melodrama, is long overdue, but comes too suddenly.

Harry Styles and Emma Corrin are a conflicted 1950’s couple in Michael Grandage’s atmospheric if flawed adaptation