TIFF 2022: Bros and My Policeman Take Contrasting Approaches to Gay Love Stories


my policeman (2022 | United Kingdom | 113 minutes | Michael Grandage)

First: yes, my policeman indeed rewards a decade of teenage Tumblr fanfic desires with copious scenes of naked Harry Styles in another man’s erotic embrace. Second, can Harry act? Of course, he’s basically… okay here? Largely because the role – a simple local boy in uniform who falls for a “single-for-life” art curator while pursuing an unusually chaste relationship with a shy schoolteacher – doesn’t appeal to him. too. But while that simplicity works in Styles’ favor, the lack of complexity keeps the film as a whole from elevating.

Aiming to be a prismatic story of deception, love, friendship and consequences across the decades, my policeman could be a candidate for the “gay trauma” wing of the museum in which the character of Billy Eichner opened Brothers. Adapted from the novel by Bethan Roberts, the film opens in the slightly brighter 1990s as a retired schoolteacher played by Gina McKee (marionwhose main hobbies include wistful gazes of silent resignation out of windows) hosted an old friend (Rupert Everett, as Stroke patrick) against the vehement protests of her retired policeman husband (Linus Roache, as Tom, an avid walker of his little dog).

The story of the thirty-year break between this trio “Okay, it’s complicated” is unveiled in snippets of unreliable memory and log entries. We first see Marion & Tom’s meeting through her sunny memories, in which he and the early days of their relationship are filmed in an idealized style. Later, she comes across one of Patrick’s journals and the story of Patrick and Tom’s meeting unfolds: a chance meeting, an invitation to model, a drunken caress, and long periods of deception. Younger versions of these characters hold most of the spotlight: Styles as Tom, Emma Corrin as Marion (in serious danger of being typecast as dynamic women fumbling in terrible marriages between that, the crownand Lady Chatterly’s Lover where at least they can have fun), and David Dawson draws a few notes of grace from the tortured bon vivant Patrick. This is 1950s England, where homosexuality was illegal. Their early outings on cultural expeditions are immediately read as suspect to modern viewers, but there are hints of dynamism to be found as we see alternate sides of the case and contrast one side’s tasteful warmth with the conscientious couplings of the other. The irony of a copper lusting after a guy is obvious, though it’s heightened by scenes of police harassment to set the stakes for every underground couple.

Danger, repression, and clandestine romance are fertile ground for a doomed romance, but the more we learn about what Marion knew, when she knew, and what she did about it, the more the past narrative and present feels fragile. We are left with the story of a tumultuous and passionate year of betrayal and regret, with no sense of the glue that held the intervening decades together. The past narrative may be riddled with tropes, but there are at least hints of life. As today’s storyline culminates in a dreary seaside cottage, it oversteps the bounds of resolution and worms its way into an undeserved sense of false uplift.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.


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