From: Silver Screen

REVIEW: ‘My Policeman’ is an important period piece with acting shortfalls

REVIEW: ‘My Policeman’ is an important period piece with acting shortfalls

My Policeman” reckons with tough themes of love and infidelity while revealing the true history of police violence against LGBTQ+ community. But Harry Styles's acting distracts from these significant issues.

Set in late 1950s Britain, Tom (Styles), a police officer, sets his eyes on Marion (Emma Corrin), a schoolteacher. However, when Tom meets Patrick, a lonely museum curator (David Dawson), Tom falls in love with him. As a police officer, Tom’s supervisors encourage him to marry to help him move up in rank. Tom and Marion marry while he and Patrick continue their secret love affair. 

Throughout these experiences, Tom, Patrick and Marion develop a solid friendship amongst the three of them, and Patrick begins accompanying Tom and Marion on their dates. As Tom and Patrick’s secret romance ramps up, Patrick and Marion take a liking to each other because they are both interested in art.

Corrin and Dawson clearly outperform Styles. Styles severely limits the film’s potential with his lack of acting prowess. In one scene, Tom stumbles home to Patrick drunk in a moment meant to elicit a strong emotional response from the audience. But Styles’s drunken acting sucks all the air from the moment, creating a sequence that’s more likely to leave viewers confused rather than entranced.

Many moments in Tom and Patrick’s relationship mirror scenes between Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) in “Titanic.” In one scene, Patrick invites Tom to his home to sketch a portrait of him. This scene is a clear nod to a famous moment between Jack and Rose and is a great way to demonstrate the feeling of falling in love. 

Although “My Policeman” makes clear use of tried-and-true genre tropes, it also brings new and important elements to the table, particularly through its commentary on the history of police violence in the LGBTQ+ community. Set only 10 years before the Stonewall Riots in the U.S, the film plays with the irony of Tom’s career as a police officer and his affair with Patrick. Including scenes with police violence sufficiently shows the sad truth behind their story. Tom hides his relationship with Patrick and stands by as his fellow officers arrest and beat citizens on account of so-called public indecency, general terminology used to demonize the LGBTQ+ community.

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At the same time, “My Policeman” grapples with the tension between desire and infidelity because viewers who root for the passionate love affair between Tom and Patrick make an unexpected antagonist out of Marion. She seems naive for pursuing Tom and their less than passionate relationship, and she makes a mistake that makes her unlikable to the viewer. The fact that viewers are meant to sympathize with Marion adds another layer of complexity to the already thorny relationship dynamics between her, Tom and Patrick. Tom struggles to show any form of affection for her, and when they meet, the spark that exists between Tom and Patrick is absent.

Marion’s career as a schoolteacher puts her in a special spot because she is also fighting societal standards. Tom hopes Marion will take the role of a stereotypical ‘50s housewife who cooks, cleans and contributes to the household. This contradiction adds more irony because he is also breaking societal norms with his affair. 

While Styles’ questionable and at times even laughable performance is hard to overlook, “My Policeman” ultimately raises a lot of timely questions by viewing them through the lens of the recent past. In spite of the film’s shortcomings, the relationship between Tom, Patrick and Marion force viewers to ponder the definition of a meaningful relationship.

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