And here again, the contrast between Styles’ public persona and his role in My Policeman outstrips the formulaic drama on screen. Trading in feather boas for a bobby’s pressed uniform and suspenders, Styles is playing against type — not because his character is gay, but because he’s a cop. There’s a dissonance to the juxtaposition between a star who defies tired binaries and a film that dutifully trots them out, a weepy about repressed desire without much fresh perspective or insight to offer.
Yes, there are lines like, “How do you stand being alone?” and, “You can afford to break the rules, I can’t.” Of course, it’s important to remember our fraught history, and the hardships faced — even by white British men — before the LGBTQ+ community gained a measure of acceptance, from which people like Tom and Patrick were the first to benefit. And, as we know all too well, our rights and protections are not guaranteed and there’s still much progress to be made.
But what is My Policeman adding to any of that? “It’s not like ‘This is a gay story about these guys being gay,’” Styles told Rolling Stone. “It’s about love and about wasted time to me.” We know from the beginning of the film that the straight side of this love triangle has persisted, while the “unnatural” love was snubbed out, leaving Patrick in the cold. Played with a melancholy frown by Rupert Everett in scenes that intercut to the present day, he’s a portrait of the art-lover as a gay man whose life has been ruined by a woman who — spoiler alert — turns out to be a narc. More than anything, the moral of the story seems to be that Marion, Tom’s long-suffering wife (played by Gina McKee in the present), overcomes his betrayal, regrets her costly revenge, and eventually recognizes that love is love.
And that’s nice for her. Better late than never. Hopefully the reversal of her position on gay sex will inspire others to do the same. And maybe people inclined to disagree with her will wind up tuning into this movie unawares because there is a policeman in it and the cover art is quite subtle.
But for Harry Styles’ next role, what about a story closer to his own heart — a story about blurred boundaries and unclassified desires, that looks forward with excitement rather than backward with rue? Let’s have a story about defying stale labels and conventions where everyone can afford to break the rules. We may not be there quite yet, but it’s much more fun to imagine than the regrets of a closeted gay cop.
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