Didn’t realize Harry Styles was starring in another film this fall? You’re not alone. Now that the divisive, drama-packed press frenzy for “Don’t Worry Darling” has finally died down, the world is more than ready to move on. But Styles’s acting endeavors have not ended just yet, with the British heartthrob now starring as the titular character of Michael Grandage’s historical LGBTQ romance-drama “My Policeman.”
Set in Brighton, England in the 1950s, policeman Tom Burgess (Harry Styles) and his partner Marion (Emma Corrin), a schoolteacher, form a friendship with museum curator Patrick Hazlewood (David Dawson) — a suave, articulate and cultured man. While the dynamic seems innocent at first, it is complicated by the revelation that Tom and Patrick are having a secret affair.
The film switches timelines between the 1950s and four decades later, when Marion and Tom are married, living in a small coastal home, and Patrick — whom they have not been in touch with for decades — moves in after suffering a stroke. Marion cares for Patrick’s medical needs while Tom wants nothing to do with him.
The film is based on a novel by Bethan Roberts, which chronicles a gay love story during a time in which homosexuality was illegal in England. The book is raw and powerful, and the movie is an incredibly faithful interpretation of the written work. Nevertheless, the film struggles as much as it shines.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the film is Dawson’s portrayal of Patrick. Dawson is able to perfectly encapsulate a shy-yet-charming man who is shamelessly attracted to Styles’s Tom. Dawson’s subtle facial expressions, like the glow he gets from looking at Tom and the fear he embodies during darker parts of the film, are so realistic that he is practically begging for an Oscar nomination.
The relationship arc between Patrick and Tom is devastating to watch. The audience roots for them while grappling with the fact that Tom is deceiving his wife. The two men’s relationship is a combination of fear, passion and sadness all wrapped up into one. The chemistry is so honest that when they first consummate their attraction, it feels undeniably real.
Casting for the older versions of Marion (Gina McKee), Tom (Linus Roache) and Patrick (Rupert Everett) is impeccable. The characters in both timelines match each other’s mannerisms to an eerie degree. The precision of their movements and vocal inflections makes the story incredibly cohesive and realistic.
But the film’s weaker moments cannot be overlooked. Styles performs much better in this film than his earlier fall release, but he still struggles to leave an impression.
When paired with Corrin and Dawson, his acting stands out as understated in an amateur way, not an artful one. While he masters the facial expressions of fear and adoration needed for the film, his delivery feels forced and unnatural. It’s almost like he’s directly reading a page he memorized a few minutes prior, reciting lines just to prove that he can. While there are no standout terrible moments, Styles’s performance feels mediocre. Corrin’s performance is also lacking, but comes across as more convincing.
Aside from these missteps, there are times when you feel so immersed in the story that you just want to give all of the characters a hug and tell them that, no matter what happens, everything will work out in the end. “My Policeman” is a gut-wrenching story of forbidden love despite unfortunate circumstances.
Rebecca Carcieri is an arts & culture editor. She is a senior from Warwick, Rhode Island studying political science.