My Policeman is an adaptation of Bethan Roberts’ 2012 novel of the same name which is primarily set on the backdrop of the sometimes sunny seaside town Brighton in 1957 (with 1990s flash-forwards set in a smaller and quieter seaside town, Peacehaven, slightly west of Brighton). The story follows Tom (Harry Styles), a young policeman that is very popular among girls, including Marion (Emma Corrin). Tom and Marion begin to spend a lot of time with each other, especially after Tom’s sister suggests that he should teach Marion how to swim. One of Marion’s passions is art, and luckily for her, Tom has a friend, Patrick (David Dawson), who works and curates at a gallery in Brighton. Tom and Patrick’s friendship seems secluded to Marion, but she enjoys spending time with them both, going to recitals and operas as a platonic ménage á trois. Tom and Marion relish each other’s company so much that they decide to wed.
In present-day Peacehaven, Marion (Gina McKee) is living in a little house close to the rocky beach. Marion has agreed to look after a sick friend from her past, drawing ire from Tom (Linus Roache). This old friend turns out to be Patrick (Rupert Everett), the art curator who they both used to love. Patrick has suffered from a stroke and is in need of daily care. Marion reads Patrick’s old diaries that a nurse has dropped by, along with some other belongings, and the past begins to unravel, where all her deepest fears of her marriage rise to the surface.
At the heart of the story is a forbidden romance. We have the “conventional” onscreen marriage between Tom and Marion, but as the story develops, we realize that Tom is also popular among men. And it’s one man in particular that takes it to the next level. Marion always had her suspicions that she wasn’t the only one canoodling in the bedroom with Tom. It’s only until she reads Patrick’s diaries that the entire true story unravels in her head. In 1957, being homosexual was illegal in England, so it’s obvious why the relations were kept a secret.
Let’s address the elephant in the room — Harry Styles. As I’m writing this on the 1st floor of the All Bar One in Leicester Square, I have the album Harry’s House blasting through my headphones. The talent Styles possesses for music, songwriting, and performing onstage is unmatched and is something I’ve been lucky enough to see in front of my own eyes on multiple occasions. His acting, however, isn’t the highlight of his career. For Styles, films such as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk are more fitting for his abilities. I enjoy seeing him on screen, but a lead role in two films in the same year (Don’t Worry Darling and My Policeman) feels rushed. He is by no means bad at all, but, a lot of people will surely be seeing My Policeman just to see Harry Styles. There will be an expectation he is going to be great. There’s plenty of time for Styles to be cast as side characters so audiences can fall in love with him as an actor.
David Dawson, on the other hand, is unbelievably captivating. Dawson is the standout of the entire film and deserves every bit of praise coming his way. Dawson manages to create great chemistry with Styles that feels natural. When you’re presented with a (mostly) romantic story, the chemistry needs to be at the forefront of the story. Without chemistry, you have nothing. Emma Corrin also delivers a great performance with her portrayal of young Marion. The characters as a whole feel a little two-dimensional, but My Policeman is clearly more interested in its events and the ideas behind them.
I can imagine director Michael Grandage coming on board for films with similar content. There is a sense of quintessential Britishness among the cast and within the story. My Policeman is interesting for the most part, and runs through every emotion possible. From utter disbelief and sadness, to making the entire cinema laugh, My Policeman is one to watch if you love understated romance and maybe want a good cry.
My Policeman screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2022 and will release on Prime Video on November 4th.
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