It’s 1950s Britain, same-sex relationships are illegal and times are less than ideal. My Policeman follows a young police officer in this period who falls in love with and marries a schoolteacher, but still doesn’t seem content or overtly happy with his life. He soon realizes that his true feelings are rather for a male art curator who, over time, became the couple’s close friend. The two men then engage in a secret romance, and this is where My Policeman starts to go downhill. There are plenty of decent facets to the film, yet it struggles to hold attention and be taken seriously. With some lackluster performances and a script that consistently drags, My Policeman is a questionable attempt at what should be a very compelling story.
Tom Burgess (Harry Styles) first grows infatuated with Marion Taylor (Emma Corrin). The two appear to be falling quite deeply in love, going on dates to museums and concert halls until eventually getting married. The newlyweds get a charming cottage together and things seem to be going swimmingly. As a police officer and schoolteacher, the two fit the perfect image of a married couple in a hardworking society. However, it’s revealed that throughout all of this, Tom has been sneaking out to meet with their art curator friend Patrick (David Dawson) who may just be a good mate to Marion, but is surely much more than that to her husband.
The two males first meet while Tom is on the job, fully dressed up in his police uniform. Patrick suggests Tom has a plain face, perfect for a drawing. He invites the younger Tom over to his place to sketch him and after the drawing session, things quickly heat up. It doesn’t take long for Corrin’s character to grow suspicious of the two men, or for her to catch sight of their intimacy. This sends her into a spiraling state of panic and jealousy as she turns to her peers for advice on how to “help” her husband and end his scandalous tendencies and illegal relationship. This three-way affair tragically pushes them all further apart from one another more than they could imagine.
The performances in My Policeman are overall solid but can often be painfully rocky. Harry Styles’ inexperience on screen has never been this glaringly obvious, as perhaps it’s a bit too early in his acting career to be carrying a heavy drama like this for the majority of its runtime. My Policeman coming so soon after the weak response to Don’t Worry Darling won’t be doing him any favors. David Dawson’s turnout as Patrick holds up just fine playing opposite of Styles, yet the only slight standout role comes from The Crown star Emma Corrin and their portrayal of the infatuated-turned-betrayed wife. Corrin succeeds in bringing an element of authenticity and raw emotion to a film that otherwise feels mostly flat and soulless. They are a shining beacon who is the easiest to attach to and empathize with, even when My Policeman tries to spin the narrative another way.
There’s a second set of actors that portray the characters years later in the 90s, as the story jumps back and forth in time in an attempt to heighten the stakes of this love triangle. Linus Roache plays an older Tom while Gina McKee takes on the role of Marion and Rupert Everett tries to sell a failing and sickly Patrick. This second trio of actors pick up the energy as much as they can and set the film on smoother sailing whenever they are onscreen. They do as well a job as they can with the thin and underdeveloped script they are given to work with. In the end, My Policeman is ultimately nowhere near as impactful as it should be even with their noble efforts.
Steven Price’s score is quite gorgeous and fits nicely with the aesthetic of the time period. Likewise, the multi-faceted Ben Davis propels the film to his best abilities with admirable cinematography, helping the story along with plenty of eye-catching shots sprinkled throughout. These pleasing elements mostly disappear when Michael Grandage’s direction is apparent – sporting borderline parody performances out of the actors with monotonous line deliveries. The sound and visuals may work on their own, but My Policeman is hard to appreciate when the love triangle at its center carries little to no chemistry between one another for the entirety of the film. Even the bare-skinned and graphic love scenes between Tom and Patrick are somehow bland and in no way sell their romance. It’s stale to the point of embarrassment, with misguided direction and casting being the clear reason.
My Policeman has the potential to tell an intriguing story about self-acceptance, the freedom of love, and overcoming odds in a time when more representation like this is needed. However, with nearly all aspects falling flat, the film ends up practically laughable as almost nothing on screen can be taken as seriously as intended. By the time the credits roll, they are more than welcome. My Policeman is a shallow example of queer representation that is barely able to reach down in the waters to more than ankle-deep. There’s a desperate lack of emotion in a film that should be brimming with such, and the idea may be there, but it never becomes more than an uninspired and dreary tale told in a clumsy fashion.