Spoilers for the My Policeman book and film below.
If you happen to first got here to know of the Nineteen Fifties-set romantic drama My Policeman as “that movie starring Harry Styles as a gay cop,” well, consider this text a secure space. As a matter of fact, the 2012 novel by British writer Bethan Roberts—the film’s source material—owes most of its American readers to the pop star. Though it was met with quiet acclaim when first released in Britain, My Policeman flew to date under the radar that it wasn’t even published within the U.S. until last 12 months.
And the novel might need remained an obscure, “the ladies that get it get it”-type gem until Amazon announced its Styles-starring adaptation in September 2020. (Styles was even photographed with the book earlier that 12 months, and the novel made appearances on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.) The existence of the film—and Styles’ involvement in it—ignited a firestorm of interest in Roberts’ nearly decade-old book, and an American edition hit shelves for the primary time on Aug. 3, 2021.
My Policeman: A Novel
My Policeman: A Novel
Now 15% Off
In case you’re unfamiliar, My Policeman follows a doomed love triangle in postwar Brighton: A young policeman named Tom Burgess (Styles) marries schoolteacher Marion (Emma Corrin), his sister’s childhood friend—but his heart belongs to Patrick Hazelwood (David Dawson), a slightly-older man who works as an art curator on the local museum. The book and the movie alike jump between the Nineteen Fifties, following the events on the story’s heart as they unfold, and Marion and Tom’s life as a retired couple within the Nineties. Within the latter timeline, Patrick has recently had a stroke, and—against Tom’s objections—Marion has taken him out of hospice to look after him herself on the Burgess home.
Even at a time when queer media has progressed past the necessity for tragic tales from straight allies about secret amorous affairs, Roberts’ novel is a stunner. Told in hauntingly elegiac prose, My Policeman—the book—is a sorrowful story in regards to the ways by which expectations of conformity harm us all. As Christopher Bollen puts it in his Recent York Times review, “It’s Marion who’s forged because the outsider and interloper, and her cravings for Tom are rendered in a way that has traditionally been reserved for unrequited homosexual yearnings. … Meanwhile, Patrick, who does have fulfilling sex with Tom, harbors a more conventional fantasy, ‘as if we were—well, married.’”
So how does the movie measure as much as the book?
While the film is a transparent tribute to the eagerness and dedication of all involved with its making, it unfortunately leaves quite a bit to be desired as, well, a movie. It’s beautiful to have a look at, nevertheless it leaves the viewer cold whilst it makes a transparent play at manipulating the audience’s emotions. Ultimately, the movie suffers from an excessively literal adherence to the source material: In some respects, it’s scrupulously faithful; at the identical time, the script eliminates or heavily truncates some “minor” subplots which have an outsize impact on the texture of your entire novel. As for the million-dollar query of Styles’ performance, it seems that the less he speaks, the higher he fares. That’s not a dig at the person’s acting abilities—or, at the least, not only a dig—a lot as an remark that Styles brings to his role a magnetic type of physicality that’s best allowed to face by itself.
As for the changes that the variation makes to Roberts’ original version of the story, many are minor: Tom gives Marion her swimming lessons on the local pool, reasonably than within the ocean; Patrick confides to Tom that his ex-lover Michael was beaten to death by a mob, whereas within the book we learn that Michael died by suicide. But some changes are more significant than others. Here’s what die-hard fans of the book should know before seeing the movie.
David Dawson as Patrick, Emma Corrin as Marion, and Harry Styles as Tom in My Policeman.
Parisa Taghizadeh/Courtesy of Prime Video
Marion and Tom’s Youth
Each the film and the book open within the Nineties before flashing back to the story’s pivotal events. Within the book, Marion first takes us back to her school days, when she first became friends with Tom’s sister Sylvie and commenced to admire Tom from afar. As Marion grows into an adult, she makes the alternative to turn out to be a teacher, sets her sights on Tom, and schemes to get his attention; at the identical time, Tom prepares to serve within the military and contemplates what to do together with his life before finally deciding on becoming a policeman. Marion’s frequent visits to Tom and Sylvie’s home also offer readers some insight into Tom’s youth and upbringing.
Within the film, though, the earliest flashback takes place after Tom has already returned from the War. At this point, their identities are already set: He’s working as a policeman, Marion is a teacher, they usually already know one another—if only peripherally—from childhood.
Courtesy of Prime Video
Within the book, Marion is childhood friends with Tom’s little sister Sylvie, and Sylvie’s relationship together with her eventual husband Roy provides a stark contrast to Marion and Tom’s marriage: Where Marion works and never has children, Sylvie becomes a stay-at-home mom; where Tom proposes to Marion despite not being drawn to her, Roy has an energetic sexual relationship with Sylvie but refuses to marry her until she lies to him about being pregnant out of wedlock. Sylvie can be the primary character to precise suspicion that Tom is perhaps enthusiastic about men. In contrast, Sylvie appears for lower than a minute in your entire film. Within the scene where Tom agrees to provide Marion swimming lessons, reasonably than implying that Tom is perhaps gay, Sylvie tells Marion that Tom likes “busty women.” Though Sylvie isn’t an enormous character within the book, her role as Marion’s foil feels significant enough that it’s odd to not see her within the movie.
Sylvie isn’t the one certainly one of Marion’s friends who gets short shrift. Within the book, Marion befriends Julia, one other teacher at the varsity where she works. Marion admires Julia’s independence, and her coworker’s kindness becomes a lifeline for her—until Marion ruptures their friendship by declaring that she views queerness as immoral and unnatural, which prompts Julia to come back out to Marion as a lesbian and end their friendship. The regret that Marion harbors over the top of her and Julia’s relationship is sort of as significant as her conflicted feelings about her husband’s queerness.
Julia does make several appearances in the variation (and her coming-out scene makes it into the film intact), but her role is so substantially cut down that the audience never even learns her name—and the aftermath of her and Marion’s falling-out doesn’t figure into the story in any respect.
Within the film, as within the book, Patrick arrives on the Burgess’s home within the Nineties following a stroke that has severely impacted his physical capabilities. Within the book, he’s barely in a position to do anything in any respect except grunt and glare; the afternoon when Marion hears him calling out for Tom is a pivotal moment since it marks the clearest communication Patrick has engaged in since he arrived. Within the film, Patrick is kind of a bit more energetic—and healthy enough to campaign for Marion to let him smoke his beloved cigarettes. While his speech continues to be significantly impaired, he can and does verbalize a detailed enough approximation of what he desires to say that Marion is incessantly in a position to understand him. What’s more, he’s in a position to get across the house on his own when he’s in his wheelchair.
The prognosis for Patrick’s ongoing condition within the film can be considerably different than within the book. Within the novel, Patrick’s doctor repeatedly urges Marion to simply accept the undeniable fact that he’s not convalescing, that there isn’t a hope in any way for his recovery. In the variation, things are grim, but not hopeless: towards the top of the movie, Marion observes to Tom that Patrick is getting worse, but she insists that he still has a shot at convalescing if Tom would only show up for him. In the ultimate scene, as Tom clasps his hand on Patrick’s shoulder, the audience is led to consider that Tom just might pull through for Patrick in any case—and that the star-crossed lovers will finally get their joyful ending.
Gina McKee and Rupert Everett as Marion and Patrick within the Nineties.
Parisa Taghizadeh/Courtesy of Prime Video
Watch My Policeman on Prime Video
Keely Weiss is a author and filmmaker. She has lived in Los Angeles, Recent York, and Virginia and has a cat named after Perry Mason.