Three lives are threatened by a secret affair in My Policeman
In 1990s Sussex retired married couple Marion (Gina Mckee) and Tom (Linus Roache) welcome old friend Patrick (Rupert Everett) into their home to recover from a stroke. With obvious tension in the air between the three, we flashback to the 1950s to view how a forbidden romance damaged all of their lives. My Policeman is adapted from a 2012 novel of the same name by Bethan Roberts. It is directed by theatre director Michael Grandage, who previously served as creative director of the Donmar Warehouse.
Back in 1950s Brighton the young Marion (The Crown’s Emma Corrin) is completely smitten with Tom (Harry Styles) who is a local police officer. When the two begin dating Tom introduces Marion to museum curator Patrick (David Dawson) and the three become close friends. Though Marion and Tom get married their relationship is completely passionless, and we soon learn it is because Tom is in a secret affair with Patrick. The secret could ruin all three of their lives, as male homosexuality was illegal in the UK at this time and sex acts between men punishable with prison time.
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From the off the level of obsession all characters in My Policeman have with Tom is a bit intense. While both Marion and Patrick chase after him, the camera traces Harry Styles with an adoring, oft romantic, sometimes lustful gaze. It’s beautifully shot but the obsession seems unwarranted considering that, unfortunately, Tom is a complete charisma vacuum. Pretty yes, but with all the characterization of a blank piece of paper.
Styles has absolutely no chemistry with Corrin (which, fair enough, he’s playing a secret gay man) making all of their scenes feel supremely awkward. He does perform well opposite Dawson – the two of them having a believably steamy affair. He’s absolutely terrible at delivering dialogue however, constantly stilted, and wooden – though it’s not entirely his fault as the script is not much better.
Corrin turns in the best performance which shouldn’t be a surprise considering they are coming fresh off the back of playing a betrayed Princess Diana in The Crown. Emoting with all their might, they manage to add extra dimension to a flimsy script and are the highlight of all the scenes shot in the 50s. Dawson is decent too, capturing a feeling of genuine love and devotion alongside the exhausted fear of someone living their life in a society which is hostile to them.
There was a rich premise here, exploring the relationships of a gay police officer living in a time in which they were supposed to be persecuting their own kind. Unfortunately, there is just not enough depth to the story, with a combo of weak writing and a poor central performance making it feel like a soap opera rather than a sweeping tragic romance. My Policeman’s biggest crime is that it fails to elicit any kind of feeling from its audience (apart from laughing at a frankly dire sex scene between Marion and Tom.)
A disappointment on the whole then. Whilst I’m sure My Policeman will find its audience (there’s a large number of people interested in seeing a Harry Styles sex scene after all, and there are a lot of them in this movie) the film fails to leave its mark and is pretty much instantly forgettable. A shame for Corrin and Dawson who are doing decent work – but unfortunately someone, somewhere convinced Styles he had the chops to be a leading man. And thus far he just doesn’t.
My Policeman was reviewed as part of the BFI London Film Festival. It will receive a limited cinema release on 21st October 2022 before streaming on Amazon Prime Video from 4th November 2022