What Is My Policeman, Starring Harry Styles, Even About?

Harry Styles dressed as a cop
Photo by Neil Mockford/GC via Images

The more Harry Styles pivots to movies, the more his roles get hyped. And this week, we finally got a glimpse at his latest: My Policeman, a film adaptation of Bethan Roberts’s heartbreaking 2012 novel of the same title, directed by the Tony Award winner Michael Grandage (2016’s Genius). Starring opposite is Emma Corrin, who broke through last year with her portrayal of Princess Diana in The Crown season 4. The costars already knew each other—to the point that Styles actually sent Corrin the script a year ago, just to get her opinion. Here’s everything we know about the film, which just kicked off filming in Brighton, England, so far.

Harry Styles and Emma Corrin play a married couple, though they aren’t the film’s true romance

Partially set in 1950s England, Styles plays Tom, the titular policeman who’s married to a somewhat mousy schoolteacher named Marion (Corrin), even though he’s gay. In fact, he’s already in a relationship, with an art curator named Patrick (David Dawson). Unsurprisingly, their marriage is rocky—and especially so when the plot jumps to the the 1990s, when the trio unexpectedly reunites.

Tom and Marion might not have the steamiest romance, but they try hard enough that Styles and Corrin share at least a couple of kissing scenes. The paparazzi managed to track them down locked in a tight embrace, as well as Styles in uniform.

David Dawson’s Patrick remains something of a mystery

Patrick is older than Tom—in real life, Dawson is 12 years Styles’s senior— adding another layer to their relationship. We know from set photos that the characters aren’t completely secretive: They were recently photographed together on the street in broad daylight.

Dawson himself is something of a mystery, too. Naturally, fans have been Googling him—likely to pester him, like Corrin, about how lucky he is. But largely to no avail: The theater actor doesn’t have social media. He does, however, have plenty of acting credits, with roles in very British productions like Luther, Peaky Blinders, and The Road to Coronation Street.

Though, much on the internet has been made of rumors that Dawson and Styles will share two rather intimate sex scenes.

David Dawson and Harry Styles on the set of My Policeman in Brighton, England, May 2021.

Photo by Neil Mockford GC via Getty Images

The younger trio’s scenes together are all flashbacks

The film begins in 1957, which is why Tom didn’t publicly disclose his sexuality: Homosexuality was then illegal in England. The trio then crosses paths again in the 1990s, with all the characters played by older actors. Linus Roache (of Homeland) will play Styles’s older counterpart, and Gina McKee (of Atonement) will play Corrin’s.

Rupert Everett rounds out the cast

Patrick—by then an aging invalid—makes a comeback, too, played by Rupert Everett. Everett has been a trailblazer from the start, beginning with his role as a gay former public school student in 1930s England, in 1984’s Another Country. Everett himself came out in a novel five years later, and has repeatedly opined whether coming out so early in his career may have hurt it.

“Honestly, I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out,” he said in 2009. “The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business. It just doesn't work and you're going to hit a brick wall at some point.” (Everett has also had relationships with women. “I was basically adventurous,” he once said of his heterosexual dalliances. “I think I wanted to try everything.”)

Obviously, the film deals with the real experience of the changing attitudes towards homosexuality

Keep in mind, My Policeman starts in the 1950s—at least a decade before the Sexual Offences Act was repealed, legalizing homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967. To put Tom’s reluctance to come out of the closet into context, look no further than the fact that Everett’s above quote claiming a gay person can’t make it in the film industry came more than four decades later.

Could Harry Style’s casting overshadow the film’s intent?

If the novel is any indication, it’s possible that My Policeman will be a nuanced success. Though with Everett the only openly gay actor amongst the core cast, there’s certainly been some discussion about its commitment to representation. Styles’s own relationship to sexuality has certainly been a cause for discussion over the years, though his public relationships have all been with women such as Taylor Swift and (reportedly) Olivia Wilde. None of that binary thinking, though, has made him state anything definitively.

“Am I sprinkling in nuggets of sexual ambiguity to try and be more interesting? No,” Styles told the Guardian in 2019. “I want things to look a certain way. Not because it makes me look gay, or it makes me look straight, or it makes me look bisexual, but because I think it looks cool. And more than that, I dunno, I just think sexuality’s something that’s fun. Honestly? I can’t say I’ve given it any more thought than that.” (In case you somehow missed it, Styles most recently turned heads—and then some—for appearing in Vogue wearing a dress, not to mention regularly accessorizing with nail polish and his go-to, a pearl necklace.)

Corrin, too, has taken a very modern approach to identity. “I feel like I don't identify as that feminine anymore, but increasingly more androgynous, more masculine,” the 25-year-old told W earlier this year. “It’s just how I feel most comfortable.” Which is why she recently told Miu Miu, her brand of choice, that she’d like to wear their less feminine designs. “It’s strange to have to do, though—to make something like that public, and suddenly it becomes a thing.”

Emma Corrin on the set of My Policeman in Brighton, England, May 2021.

Photo by Neil Mockford/GC via Getty Images

With screenwriter Ron Nyswaner on board, the film seems in good hands

Nyswaner, who is openly gay, regularly chooses projects dealing with homosexuality, AIDS, and homophobia. He most notably wrote the screenplay for Jonathan Demme’s 1993 film Philadelphia, which earned him nominations for an Oscar, Golden Globe, and BAFTA.