This image is from the official trailer for “My Policeman,” distributed by Amazon Prime Video.

The story of “My Policeman” is an emotional telling of a tragic history regarding the mistreatment and criminalization of homosexuality in 1950s Britain. In her novel of the same name, author Bethan Roberts seamlessly transitions from one narrator to another, effectively portraying the passion and desperation of the love triangle at the center of the story: Schoolteacher Marion (Emma Corrin, “The Crown”) and museum curator Patrick (David Dawson, “The Road to Coronation Street”) both love the same man, policeman Tom (Harry Styles, “Don’t Worry Darling”), who is unattainable to each of them.

I get nervous when I learn that a novel I like is heading to theaters. There are too many examples of book-turned-movies that are, to their respective fans, unsatisfying to say the least — “It,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Percy Jackson.” Would “My Policeman” render the same emotional grip on its audience as its novel?

“My Policeman” primarily takes place in Britain, where Tom begins dating Marion. Around the same time, Tom befriends Patrick after helping him deescalate a minor crime on the streets outside the museum. Patrick, being braver, older and wiser, seeks to seduce Tom, knowing well the dangers that may come if anyone — not to mention a police officer — were to find out about his homosexuality. Tom marries Marion in an attempt at living a safe, ordinary life while pursuing Patrick in secret. Tom’s double life, Marion’s traditional values and Patrick’s passion become entangled in a tragedy where there can be no happy ending for all three. 

While ultimately satisfying in its retelling, the flaws in “My Policeman” disrupt the flow of the story, particularly in the beginning. The film begins in present-day Marion and Tom’s beach home and flashes back to the ’50s soon after to develop their romantic relationship. Not nearly enough time is spent on this development — we see Tom ask Marion to be his wife after less than five dates, some with Patrick there. In the novel, Marion’s persistent first-person narration establishes her obsession with Tom, their romantic relationship and her feelings toward Patrick. This perspective is missing in the first act of “My Policeman” — we don’t feel the same level of believability and tension when it comes to their dynamic as a love triangle, which also sets an unintentionally slow pace to start. 

What saves the film from dragging and lacking in character development is the use of scene replays, which enhance the love triangle dynamics. For example, Marion is shown sitting next to Patrick, who is sitting next to Tom at an opera. Upon first glance, the three are happy. Marion smiles at Patrick. They all enjoy the show. The film then jumps back to introduce Patrick’s character in relation to Tom, and this scene is replayed after we know about their relationship. This time, we see Tom’s pinky graze Patrick’s as Marion smiles at them, oblivious. These replayed moments partially save the character dynamics in their development of tension through the role reversal of Marion and Patrick in relation to Tom. 

What I truly believe makes “My Policeman” a satisfying film adaptation is its ending. Without spoiling, I will say that the film dramatizes the final scene in just the right way. The novel ends quietly, and so does the film, but the latter is more emotionally resonant. I’m not usually a fan of film altering a story for its own benefit, but in this case, it is well done. We see Marion, Tom and Patrick in a light we have not seen before, and it’s incredibly heartfelt. There’s something striking about actually seeing these characters in their old age after all that they’ve been through.

When watching a film adaptation, it’s difficult to judge it separately from its original work. “My Policeman” is moving and meaningful and well-told on its own. In relation to the novel, it’s still all of those things. To me, that’s a sign of a satisfying adaptation, even if there were minor flaws in pacing and character development. At the same time, there will never be a movie that replicates what goes on in my head. Keeping that in mind, I enjoyed “My Policeman” just as much as I could for a movie where devastation is waiting at every turn. 

Daily Arts Writer Laura Millar can be reached at lamillar@umich.edu.