My Policeman: Is the Movie Based on Novelist E. M. Forster’s Life?

Directed by Michael Grandage, Amazon Prime Video’s romantic film ‘My Policeman’ revolves around Patrick Hazlewood, who ends up in the care of Marion Taylor, the wife of his former lover Tom Burgess, after a stroke. Although Patrick starts to live in Tom’s house, the latter refuses to see or talk to the former. Meanwhile, Marion reads Patrick’s diaries as she recollects their past in the 1950s and the origin of their intricate relationship.

Marion’s recollections open a window to Patrick’s struggles to hide his queer identity since same-sex relationships were a criminal offense at the time. Since the historical film depicts a certain period in the history of England through the eyes of Patrick, Tom, and Marion, the viewers may want to know whether their saga is inspired by a true story. Well, let us provide the answer!

My Policeman: Real-Life Events Mirrored in the Film

‘My Policeman’ is partially based on a true story. Michael Grandage’s directorial is an adaptation of Bethan Roberts’ eponymous novel, which is loosely based on the life of renowned English novelist E. M. Forster. Roberts was inspired by Forster’s reported relationship with policeman Bob Buckingham to conceive Patrick and Tom’s captivating tale. The novelist first met the policeman in 1930, when the former was 51 and the latter was 28. They grew closer over their similar interests and eventually started nurturing an intimate relationship.

Although Buckingham was in a relationship with May Hockey, the same didn’t stop the policeman from sharing his domestic and sexual life with Forster. When Buckingham and May married in 1932, Forster was even one of the witnesses of the same, reminding us of how Patrick was an integral part of Tom and Marion’s wedding in the film. However, Forster eventually started to worry about his relationship with Buckingham when the latter got immersed in his married life with May. The policeman eventually solved the predicament by putting aside a considerable part of his life for the novelist.

Tom and Patrick’s adventurous trip to Venice also happened in Forster and Buckingham’s life but to a different destination. In 1935, when May was suffering from tuberculosis, Forster promised her to take care of Buckingham and took the latter to Amsterdam. Like Marion takes care of Patrick when he suffered a stroke, May took care of the novelist when the novelist had a series of strokes in the 1960s. Forster even lived with Buckingham and May, who welcomed him to their home since he was also their financial benefactor.

Even Patrick’s stubbornness is based on Forster’s behavior towards May while she was nursing him. “[…] May remembered Forster as a bad patient, getting under her feet and insisting on engaging her in conversation when all she wanted was to get on with the housework,” Roberts wrote about their relationship in The Guardian, citing Forster’s biographer P. N. Furbank as the source of the same. This intriguing detail of the patient-caretaker relationship motivated the author to write the source novel of the film. “It was this anecdote, more than anything else, which inspired me to investigate the story of this fascinating triangle and use it as the inspiration for my new novel, My Policeman,” the author added.

E. M. Forster//Image Credit: Joop van Bilsen/Wikimedia Commons

Although ‘My Policeman’ is heavily based on Forster’s life, there are significant differences between the novelist and Patrick. Even though Patrick’s relationship with Marion deteriorated after her marriage to Tom, it wasn’t exactly the case in reality. Forster was extremely close to May. He was the godfather of May and Buckingham’s son Robin. When Robin died, Forster extended his support to Buckingham and his wife. Even when Buckingham started to grow irritable and distant toward the author, it was May who reminded her husband of the need to respect their benefactor.

In the film, Marion destroyed Patrick’s life and the togetherness he shared with Tom by reporting him to the police. In reality, however, Forster was neither imprisoned for his same-sex relationships nor May betrayed him. On the contrary, May cherished spending time with Forster. “Over the years he [Forster] changed us both and he and I came to love one another, able to share the joys and sorrows that came,” May wrote about her relationship with the author in a personal article titled “Some Reminiscences.”

Read More: Where Was My Policeman Filmed?