How I would remake “My Policeman.”
My Policeman does not deserve some of the negative reviews it has received (particularly those knocking Harry Styles’ perfectly good performance as the titular character, Tom), but it does fall far short of the movie it could have been. The following entails my diagnosis of what didn’t work and what a much better movie could have looked like.
The structure of the film, which alternates between the “present” (the mid-80s? It’s not entirely clear) and the past (the late 50s) is distracting and unnecessary. It also wastes the older Patrick — the most interesting character of the three as a young man — by rendering him mute because of a stroke. There would have been plenty of drama and conflict simply by progressing chronologically over the same time period. I also would not have recast the older characters with older actors, either. Nothing in the story requires a timeline extending longer than 25 years, and the younger actors could have been easily aged via makeup from their mid-twenties to their late forties.
The movie should have started with the first encounter between Tom and Patrick. Their romance is the central story of the film and should remain its focus. (By the way, despite being the term used to market the film, Tom is not “bisexual.” He is a gay man who feels driven by very real societal pressure to lead an outwardly heterosexual life.)
In the current iteration, it appears as if Tom meets Marion (Emma Corrin) first, and their romance is well on their way when they meet Patrick. Then, when present-day Marion reads the 1958 diaries of Patrick, we flashback to the actual chronology, in which Tom’s affair with Patrick was well-developed when he meets Marion.
It’s simply not necessary to structure the film this way, and a little bit confusing, as if we are meant to wonder whether Marion, through Patrick’s diaries, is finding out only now about what happened then. Instead, soon after he begins a romance with Patrick, we could have seen Tom getting the talk from his supervisor that unmarried policemen are generally passed over when it comes to promotion; or he could be forced to participate in the arrest of a gay man; or felt parental pressure to marry. (There is a strange absence of family for the three principal characters.) Any or all of…