My Policeman [TIFF22 Review]

My Policeman is baffling in most choices it makes. From start to finish, it is a series of questionable decisions that make you wonder how no one intervened and say maybe it wasn’t the right choice. 

My Policeman tells the tale of forbidden romance and changing social conventions. It follows three people — policeman Tom (Harry Styles/Linus Roache), teacher Marion (Emma Corrin/Gina McKee), and museum curator Patrick (David Dawson/Rupert Everett) — and their emotional journey spanning decades. 

The first baffling choice belongs with the casting of Harry Styles in the titular role of Tom. Styles’ transition into acting hasn’t been as smooth sailing as other pop stars in the past, and the reason is simple. He can’t act. That statement might be rash, but it is okay to admit that even with a name and appeal like his, there are things he can’t do. And being an actor or leading man is not for him. 

Let me tell you what the best acting he does in this film is. For the first half, Styles acts closed off, stiff, and uncomfortable in every scene. When the trailer arrived, many pointed out the scene where he got angry at the diner table and criticized his acting. While it was a questionable choice, the context made sense, as the story evolves, one is led to believe his acting would change. 

This is a closeted man who is with a woman to protect himself. For most of the first half, Tom spends most of his time with Marion, so his standoffish behaviour makes sense. And as the transition is made and the reveal that Tom and Patrick had been together before he met with Marion, one would think Styles would transition into acting more openly, giving nuance to his performance and yet, he never does. 

It’s a shame because opposite him, Emma Corrin and David Dawson give everything they have. None of them have chemistry, so this romance, friendship, and whole tale fall flat. 

The second baffling choice belongs to the script and the choices made regarding storytelling. The film cuts back and forth between the past (with Styles, Corrin and Dawson) and the present (with Roache, McKee and Everett). These back and forths are meant to create mystery, using it as a device to tell the story while also having its storyline to conclude a story started decades before. For the most part, the present storyline is okay, it never feels forced, but there are so many inconsistencies in the past and present.

In the film, Older Marrion reads journals that Patrick has kept his entire life. When she reads those, we start seeing Patrick and Tom’s relationship through Patrick’s eyes, and many of the revelations are made. It’s an exciting idea, but the film uses this device to create mystery beforehand, and the reveal of the journals is somewhat supposed to be a shock. The acting makes us believe that Marion had no prior knowledge of those. Except, she does… While revealing too much, we are led to believe that maybe Marion doesn’t know too much about their relationship or the existence of those journals, but the film then does a flashback where she is reading those same journals. It is a choice that doesn’t make sense regarding acting and directing. 

And the film is full of those. The moments that could have worked and the baffling choices make it fall flat. It could have been a film that would have been decent if better choices had been made. If the script had been rewritten, casting the right lead would have been done instead of going for the name recognition.

All of that makes My Policeman feel more like a low-budget Hallmark movie, not the big studio-budget film it wants to be.