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‘My Policeman’ Review: Harry Styles Represses Himself

Like it or not, fall 2022 appears to be the season of Harry Styles. He’s been discussed ad infinitum in the most overexposed film in memory and also this one, “My Policeman,” helmed by English theater director Michael Grandage.

On the press trail, Styles informed us that this film about the decades-spanning relationship between Tom, a closeted cop (Styles); art curator Patrick (David Dawson, a revelation, but more on that later); and Emma Corrin as Tom’s long-suffering wife Marion, is not “a gay story about these guys being gay.’ It’s about love and about wasted time to me.”

If you say so, but the way he seems to read his own movie suggests he didn’t understand the assignment. That’s reflected in a performance that registers as a blank beyond inscrutable gazes and sappy breakdowns. To play a repressed gay man involved in a steamy, behind-closed-doors affair requires levels of complexity and conveying inner turmoil that Styles can’t provide. There’s at least one good explanation for that, and all those who accuse the Brit pop star of queer-baiting know exactly what that is.

“My Policeman” is often very good, but the best scenes involve Dawson’s rapier-witted and dandyish Patrick or Corrin’s Marion, whom the actress makes more than a beard. She deeply loves Tom, and in his own way, she is loved by him in return. Together, they make up three points of a wobbly love triangle in which two of the actors run circles around the other.

In 1950s Brighton, England, Tom is a working-class police officer driven by conformity, doing everything that’s required of him by a traditional (read: hetero) world, and so when he meets sincere schoolteacher Marion on a glistening summer beach, he sees a chance to even further disappear into himself. The two share a genuine spark — one that never converts to heat. Frustrated over Tom’s seeming inability to consummate their affair, she asks, “Why can’t we be like a real couple?” (i.e., “Why can’t we fuck?”) That frustration eventually gives way to some tepid thrusting (“I’ll be better next time,” he says). Marion keeps her clothes on, and Tom’s mind is… elsewhere.

As we learn, he’s got Patrick on the brain. Patrick is an urbane sophisticate bursting with intellectual life, rather the opposite of Tom’s dolt (who admittedly isn’t much of a reader). He heads up the western classics department at the Brighton Art Gallery when not globetrotting, increasing his rare art collection, and indulging in life’s sensuous pleasures — up to and including more explicitly sensual ones at local gay speakeasy The Argyle, where he’s been known to pick up men but also where police are arresting and beating them because homosexuality was then illegal.

My Policeman, Harry Styles, Emma Corrin

“My Policeman”


Tom introduces Patrick to Marion as his “friend,” hoping they can share their love of great art (especially J.M.W. Turner, clearly an inspiration for cinematographer Ben Davis; the film is obsessed with cuts to waves breaking against rocks). This cements the three’s-company dynamic that dominates the story. The trio chows down on culture, from debates over “Anna Karenina” to violin recitals, with Tom staring on blankly.

Behind the scenes, passions are brewing. The movie steps back in time to show really just how Tom came to know Patrick: It’s because they’ve been having some pretty hot sex this whole time back at Patrick’s place, an emerald green-gilded pad lined with wall-to-wall art and rounded mirrors.

Styles recently said that the sex in “My Policeman” would show a more “tender” side to gay lovemaking because “so much of gay sex in film is two guys going at it.” I am here to tell you that the sex in “My Policeman” is rawer than Styles seems to think, from a close-up on Styles’ face, awash in ecstasy, while Patrick goes down on him for the first time, to an overhead shot of Patrick appearing to be topped by Tom, digging his hands into Patrick’s back. This is no Guadagnino-esque panning to a tree.

Later, Tom coughs up to Patrick that he’s planning to marry Marion because he wants kids. “You can afford to break the rules,” Tom says. “I can’t.” Patrick responds by pushing Tom against an embankment and jerking him off. “Can you share me?” Patrick asks, as if to say, “Can Marion do this?”

My Policeman Harry Styles

“My Policeman”


In flash-forwards to the 1990s spliced throughout the movie, we see Tom (Linus Roache) now in old age and still married to Marion (an excellent Gina McKee). They have taken in a very sick Patrick (Rupert Everett), who’s recently suffered a stroke and lost his ability to communicate. There’s a funereal “45 Years” vibe to these scenes, and you can almost smell the must of regret and chill in the air. This timeline further introduces an epistolary structure, unfolding via entries from Patrick’s diary that the elder Marion cracks open and reads into the night.

The diary’s lurid details include a sexy jaunt to Venice in the ’50s, where Patrick had serious art business but brought Tom along under the guise of his assistant. This sumptuous montage looks like a postcard, for all the better and the worse of what that entails. Later, an actual postcard serves to undo Tom and Patrick’s affair. How exactly it reaches that point is clunky and cliched, with a third-act “twist” that’s more of a foregone conclusion. (Ron Nyswaner’s script, working from the novel by Bethan Roberts, often caves to the demands of melodrama over character.)

The alternating double-timeline structure threatens to dilute the potency of those past-tense scenes. Grandage tends to shoot his movie like a play, unfolding the story via shot-reverse shot setups of people talking to each other, with little cinematic interest in the objects and minutiae that govern desire.

My Policeman, Harry Styles

“My Policeman”

screenshot/Prime Video

Styles’ interpretation of the material as a “universal” story that’s not just about “these guys being gay” aside, this is a very specifically gay story about very real gay pain. That also means, yes, “My Policeman” is another movie about gay suffering that features beatings, homophobia, repression, and brooding in the shadows. Perhaps it’s Styles’ lack of personal relationship to the material (Dawson is gay, and Corrin identifies as queer), but his performance feels only like half of one. Anyone can show twisting consternation or a pensive mood, but it’s another thing entirely to communicate the telepathy that hums between queer people (especially secret ones) and the inner whirling rage of desire left unrealized.

However. The movie is anchored, elevated, and very often knocked completely out of the park by Dawson, who is at turns sexy, mysterious, wise, naive, overflowingly open, vulnerable, and strong. It’s one of the best performances of the year, and one that deserves all exaltations in a movie that often lacks them. A late-breaking moment when Patrick’s museum colleague tells him, “There’s a policeman here to see you,” and Patrick lights up, only to realize that it isn’t that policeman here to see him, will break you.

Overall, “My Policeman” feels a little out of step with the times, with even a moment that feels like a literal callback to “Brokeback Mountain” — a glowering Marion accidentally catching Tom and Patrick in a moment of tenderness and then rushing back to the kitchen to collect herself. Do we really need another reminder that times were bad (and still are) for gay people, which of course means that love must suffer because of it? Still, “My Policeman” isn’t not arresting, and that’s thanks to the work of David Dawson and Emma Corrin, and not the film’s top biller, who was never the lead at all.

Grade: C+

“My Policeman” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. It will be released by Amazon October 21 in theaters and streaming on Prime Video November 4.

At age 16, Harry Styles auditioned for “The X Factor” with a Stevie Wonder song.

Harry Styles X Factor
Harry Styles wore a scarf during his audition for “The X Factor.” 

Dressed in a cardigan and scarf, he sang Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.”

Although he made it through a few rounds as a solo artist, Styles was eliminated from the competition. But he was brought back to become part of a group of boys (Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan, and Liam Payne) that later became One Direction.

Styles said he came up with the band’s name but added it has no significant meaning.

Styles grew up in Holmes Chapel, England, where he worked for a local bakery.

harry styles tongue
Harry Styles has since visited the bakery he used to work at. 

When he was 14 years old, Styles started making £6 per hour at the W Mandeville bakery in Holmes Chapel. 

His former boss, Simon Wakefield, told The Mirror in 2013, “[Harry] was the most polite member of staff we’ve ever had.”

Styles returned to the bakery years later to film parts of One Direction’s 2013 movie, “This Is Us.” 

Growing up, he was in a band called White Eskimo.

Harry Styles smol
White Eskimo was a pop-punk band. 

Long before his days in One Direction, Harry Styles was in a pop-punk band called White Eskimo.

He joined the group in high school, and the band performed in several talent shows and even at a wedding.

And although his bandmate Will Sweeny was supportive of Styles auditioning for ITV’s “The X Factor,” he didn’t realize what would come of it.

“I just thought it would be an experience. I never thought he would leave,” Sweeny told Manchester Evening News in 2013. “In fact, Harry is still a member of White Eskimo because he never told us he was leaving.”

He’s said he considers Shania Twain to be one of his biggest influences.

shania twain
Shania Twain is a famous country musician. 

In a 2017 interview with Entertainment Tonight, Styles said country icon Twain is one of his biggest influences in “both music and fashion.”

And in 2015, he told Entertainment Weekly that his mother often played Twain’s songs in his childhood home.

He added that he also listened to music from The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Fleetwood Mac, and Norah Jones when he was growing up. 

He’s been on an episode of “iCarly.”

icarly one direciton
The rest of One Direction was on the episode as well. 

In 2012, the musician and his fellow One Direction bandmates guest-starred on the Nickelodeon show “iCarly” on an episode called “iGo One Direction.”

Styles played himself and pretended to be sick to get more attention from Carly, and later in the episode, the band performed the hit single “What Makes You Beautiful.”

He also appeared in Christopher Nolan’s film “Dunkirk.”

harry styles dunkirk set photo
“Dunkirk” was Harry Styles’ first major film. 

In 2017, Styles made his big-screen debut in “Dunkirk,” a war drama. The film took home three Oscars and starred Fionn Whitehead and Tom Hardy, among others.

Styles played a young soldier named Alex, a performance that earned him praise from several critics. 

In 2019, Styles was on “Saturday Night Live” as the host and musical guest.

harry styles snl
Harry Styles on “Saturday Night Live.” 

Styles had previously appeared on NBC’s “SNL” as a musical guest in One Direction and on his own in 2012 and 2017, respectively. And in 2019, he returned to host the late-night sketch show.

He delivered a portion of his opening monologue behind a piano and later played a Sara Lee intern, a pilot, and several other roles in various sketches. 

Styles was also the musical guest and performed the tracks “Watermelon Sugar” and “Lights Up” from his album “Fine Line.”

Styles is set to star in an Olivia Wilde film.

harry styles performing may 2017
Harry Styles was cast Jack in “Don’t Worry Darling.” 

In 2020, Styles was cast as a replacement for controversial actor Shia LaBeouf in Wilde’s upcoming movie, “Don’t Worry Darling.”

In the psychological thriller, which is currently being filmed, he’s playing Jack, the husband of Florence Pugh’s character. Other stars like Chris Pine and Nick Kroll are also set to appear in the movie.  

He has written songs for other popular artists, including Ariana Grande.

ariana grande
“Just a Little Bit of Your Heart” was cowritten by Harry Styles. 

Styles cowrote “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart” specifically for Grande to perform.

In 2014, Grande told MTV she “was like crying” the first time she heard the song, which is on Grande’s album “My Everything.” 

Styles also penned the romantic ballad “Someday” with Meghan Trainor, and it appeared on Michael Bublé’s 2016 album.

Styles landed a Gucci campaign in 2018.

harry styles met gala 2019
Harry Styles at the 2019 Met Gala. 

Styles is known for his expansive suit collection, many of which are custom-made by Gucci.

Under the creative direction of Alessandro Michele, Gucci brought Styles on for a high-fashion campaign in 2018, which was shot in North London and featured 1970s-inspired fashion.

In 2019, Styles was a co-chair of the Met Gala alongside Michele, who also sponsored the event.

He made Vogue history.

harry styles
Harry Styles became the first solo man on the cover of American Vogue. 

In 2020, Styles was featured on the front of the December issue of Vogue, making him the first man to appear solo on the cover of the American magazine. 

For his cover shoot, the singer sported a light-blue dress paired with a black blazer, a look reminiscent of his devotion to fashion

“There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes,” he said in his cover story. “I’ve never really thought too much about what it means — it just becomes this extended part of creating something.”

His love for fashion may have started after performing in his first school play.

harry styles
Harry Styles played a mouse named Barney in his first school performance. 

Styles said in his Vogue interview that he always liked dressing up when he was a kid. And in his first school play, he was a church mouse named Barney and enjoyed wearing the costume. 

“I was really young, and I wore tights for that,” he said. “I remember it was crazy to me that I was wearing a pair of tights. And that was maybe where it all kicked off!”

He likes “The Notebook.”

the notebook
Harry Styles has said he watches a lot of rom-coms. 

In a 2017 interview with BBC Radio 1, Styles said that he loves the movie “The Notebook” and watches a lot of romantic comedies, especially ones that involve Nicholas Sparks. 

This may be why Styles starts his track “Woman” with the line, “Should we just search romantic comedies on Netflix and then see what we find?”

He has over 40 tattoos, including a mermaid on his forearm.

harry styles golden
Harry Styles has two bird tattoos on his chest. 

According to Ranker’s count, Styles’ tattoo collection has now surpassed 40 pieces.

Among the notable tattoos are a mermaid on his left arma pair of swallows on his chest, and a butterfly on his torso.

He and Ed Sheeran have matching tattoos.

Harry Styles Ed Sheeran
Harry Styles and Ed Sheeran have also worked together professionally. 

Ed Sheeran told MTV in 2013 that he and Styles have matching tattoos, and Sheeran has actually inked the former-One Direction member in the past.

The two have known each other for years, and Sheeran has even cowritten some of One Direction’s major tracks, including “Little Things” and “Moments.”

He got a tattoo on “The Late Late Show With James Corden.”

harry styles on the late late show
Harry Styles on “The Late Late Show With James Corden.” 

When Styles appeared on CBS’ “The Late Late Show With James Corden” in 2015 with his three other bandmates, One Direction and James Corden all played a game of “Tattoo Roulette.”

Corden’s popular bit entails each guest choosing a closed box, one of which is labeled with the word “tattoo” on the inside. In front of a live audience, each person opens their box, and the one who reveals the phrase immediately is inked by an on-hand tattoo artist. 

Styles chose the fated box when he played and got the words “Late Late” tattooed on his forearm. 

And he later went on to guest host that same show.

harry styles carpool karaoke
Harry Styles on James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke.” 

In 2019, Styles subbed for Corden and guest-hosted “The Late Late Show.” This time around, the singer sat in the driver’s seat of the “Carpool Karaoke” van while Corden gave him advice on hosting. 

And on the day the articles of impeachment were drawn up against former-President Donald Trump, Styles delivered the opening monologue in front of a live audience.

“Thanks for giving me an easy one, James,” Styles said. “The articles have been formally written up, and to make sure Trump reads them, they’ve included lots of pictures and some scratch-and-sniff stickers.”

He also interviewed Tracee Ellis Ross and Kendall Jenner and played “Spill Your Guts” with the latter guest star.

He has four nipples.

harry styles four nipples
Two of Harry Styles’ nipples are extra. 

In a 2017 interview with Chelsea Handler, the singer confirmed that he has four nipples, two of which are supernumerary, meaning extra.

He said he once bit off the tip of his tongue while tripping on magic mushrooms.

harry styles dancing
Harry Styles said he did “a lot” of magic mushrooms while recording “Fine Line.” 

The musician told Rolling Stone in his 2019 cover-story interview that he did “a lot” of magic mushrooms while working on his album “Fine Line.”

He said he injured himself while tripping on the drug at the Shangri-La recording studio in Malibu, California.

“This is where I was standing when we were doing mushrooms and I bit off the tip of my tongue,” he said. “So I was trying to sing with all this blood gushing out of my mouth.”

He is now an avid reader.

harry styles
Harry Styles is a fan of the author Haruki Murakami. 

In his Rolling Stone cover story, the singer said he spent his 25th birthday reading in a Japanese coffee shop.

“Reading didn’t really used to be my thing. I had such a short attention span,” he said. “But I was dating someone who gave me some books; I felt like I had to read them because she’d think I was a dummy if I didn’t read them.”

Styles added that Haruki Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood” was the first book that he couldn’t put down and sparked his interest in the hobby.

Styles once donated his hair to make wigs for cancer patients.

harry styles signature hair
Harry Styles cut his hair in 2016. 

In 2016, Styles chopped his iconic locks for his role in “Dunkirk,” and Self reported that he actually donated his hair to Little Princess Trust, a charity that makes wigs for children receiving cancer treatment. 

The organization’s Instagram page posted about the news and captioned the photo, “Thank you @harrystyles for donating your hair. It left last week along with other fantastic hair donations, on its way to the wig manufacturer.”

Stevie Nicks called Styles her “love child.”

Harry Styles Stevie nicks
Stevie Nicks has referred to Harry Styles as her “adopted son.” 

Nicks, singer-songwriter and vocalist of Fleetwood Mac, is a close friend of Styles.

In a 2019 interview with Rolling Stone, Nicks said, “He’s Mick [Fleetwood]’s and my love child. When Harry came into our lives I said, ‘Oh my God, this is the son I never had.’ So I adopted him.”

Styles paid tribute to Nicks at her second induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. She had originally been added as a member of Fleetwood Mac and was now being welcomed as a solo artist.

“She is the family member that you can always count on,” Styles said about Nicks during the ceremony. “I hope she knows what she means to us, what she means to yet another generation of artists who look to her for inspiration and trailblazing courage.” 

Styles has been called a “consent king.”

Watermelon sugar harry styles
Harry Styles earned this title on the set of his “Watermelon Sugar” music video. 

In a 2020 Instagram live, Ephrata and Aalany McMahan, two models who starred in Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar” music video, talked about calling the singer a “consent king.”

“The people were telling him to touch my hair and play with it, and he was like: ‘Wait, wait, wait, pause — can I even touch your hair? Is that even OK?'” Ephrata said. “And I was like: ‘Yeah, that’s so nice.'”

His constant check-ins earned Styles the nickname among his cast members. 

“That’s why it was so fun because everybody was so like comfortable,” Ephrata added.








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