My Policeman tells the story of Tom (Harry Styles) and Marion (Emma Corrin) who meet, fall in love, and get married in the 1950s. Early on in their courting, they invite art curator Patrick (David Dawson) into their lives without realizing the disruption this will cause to their relationship. Tom and Patrick have an intense affair. This is contrasted with the more stately marriage Tom has with Marion. While Patrick and Marion form a friendship, she is not prepared for the realities she unearths about her husband. Years later, Marion (Gina McKee) invites Patrick(Rupert Everett) to stay with her and Tom (Linus Roache) after Patrick has a stroke. She wants redemption for her past sins against Patrick. Tom wants nothing to do with Patrick as it forces him to reconcile his past actions.
Shot beautifully in Brighton, the film is full of beautiful people, art, and landscapes. Even in its slower parts, the film has something to admire in it. The score by Steven Price is also quite good, the haunting music often bringing the deception of the situation to scenes. It has beautiful themes to it that you might expect in a romantic drama but there is always something interesting going on. In a few scenes, the score does the work of communicating the interior of the film's characters which is often missing in the screenplay.
As for the performances, My Policeman features a handful of strong ones. Dawson is good enough as young Patrick to launch his movie career. He has a raw energy to him that often helps him steal scenes. He makes Patrick a nuanced character, someone who can swing from confident to weak in just a few moments. He has many standout moments that often come down to these small choices that Dawson makes. Corrin as Marion strongly plays innocence that curdles into resentment slowly over time. Styles gives his strongest performance to date as Tom. Next to these two stronger actors, his performance suffers by comparison but is still a fine performance. He is best when asked to be charming in the more romantic scenes.
All three actors that play the older version are wonderful. Everett is particularly strong in a nearly wordless performance. McKee gives a heartbreaking performance in many scenes as her marriage to Tom shifts and degrades. With so many strong performances, it is a shame that the film's script by Ron Nyswaner chooses to focus so much on what these characters do rather than how they feel. The dialogue is often painfully on the nose, revealing too much and threatening to wipe away any nuance these actors are bringing to their roles.
The film is structurally messy as well. We jump back and forth between the two timelines, often interrupting any emotional momentum either storyline has. At times, it is hard to tell where we are chronologically in the story. Michael Grandage comes from a theatre background and doesn't have much of a distinct visual style. He relies on too many visual conventions to make the film feel distinct, despite it being beautiful to look at.
Early on in My Policeman, a character states that all love stories are tragic. That is probably the closest to a message that the film delivers. For a romantic drama to work, you need to sense and see the emotional psychology of its characters. Here, the film often has characters just tell you what they are thinking or how they feel. We often don't get a real sense of who these people are or how they came together. Combined with a structural issue that keeps interrupting what could be interesting, My Policeman never comes together as a satisfying whole. Still, there are plenty of good moments in it, including Mr. Styles.