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‘My Policeman’ And Its Emotional Depth To Harry Styles Fans

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

Critics and ravers alike have been joining in on the conversation surrounding the acting in My Policeman, the Amazon Prime movie based on Bethan Roberts’ novel. The movie follows the forbidden-love story between Tom (Harry Styles) and Patrick (David Dawson) and could be described as a sour mix of beautiful and tragic.

As a die-hard Harry Styles fan, it isn’t easy for me to admit that the singer has been getting a lot of hate since becoming an actor, especially in his role as Tom Burgess, a policeman who shamefully sets on a journey of sexual exploration throughout the film. Movie critics were quick to take to the media that Styles wasn’t fit for the role, however, Harry fans have a different idea. There is much to unpack when it comes to Harry’s role in the movie and its importance to us as fans:

harry opens up about his own sexuality

It isn’t new information that the singer, songwriter, and now actor, is extremely open with both his sexuality and identity. Back in 2014 while still in One Direction, Harry admitted that being female “was not that important” when discussing traits that he and his former bandmates look for in a partner. Since then, he has repeatedly admitted in interviews that he does not feel a need to label his sexuality.

“I’ve been really open with it with my friends, but that’s my personal experience; it’s mine,” Harry admitted to The Insider in June 2022.

Though he goes without speaking about his personal love life and sexuality, the singer seems to speak to the public through his music. An unreleased song “Medicine” has been labeled as a “bisexual anthem” by fans after hearing the lines “The boys and the girls are in, I mess around with him, and I’m okay with it.”

Regardless of the singer’s personal preferences, the ability to be open and proud of your sexual identity has been emphasized by the icon in the recent years of his solo career.

How Fans Relate Harry Styles To His Role Of Tom Burgess

Harry’s character, Tom, had an undeniable longing for something that he felt was unattainable, like expressing who he really loved was an out-of-reach fantasy. Those who suspected Tom was gay did everything in their power to confine him into a reality that they selfishly created for him, and for a long time he allowed himself to subside to those confinements.

When talking about the film with Deadline, My Policeman‘s director, Michael Grandage described Tom as “Somebody who was hidden behind themselves almost. Somebody who had almost emotionally shut themselves down from the people and the world they’re in because he was a policeman in a society where it was illegal to be gay.” Does this remind you of anyone?

Harry Styles has been in the spotlight since his teenage years, yet we are newly getting to see a raw side of him after the start of his solo career. He wasn’t always the nail-painted, dress-wearing icon that runs around stage with pride flags. In fact, he was quite the opposite. In his years of One Direction, Styles’ label stuck him with the persona of being the “ladies’ man” of the band that was exploited and sexualized even as a minor. During his time in the band, he expressed his discontent with this persona, and always seemed to yearn to be something more; to be himself.

“I thought, ‘You get him. You completely get him,” Grandage continued when reflecting on how deeply Styles seemed to understand his character.

“Ultimately, the whole story is about wasted time, and I think wasted time is the most devastating thing,” Styles admitted before the premiere of the movie, “Because it’s the one thing we cannot control, it’s the one thing you can’t have back.” 

Though critics jumped to the idea that acting isn’t Styles’ forte, his fanbase easily could spot that he wasn’t acting, but expressing. This was confirmed by the director of My Policeman, Michael Grandage. “I never gave him a single note on how to be drunk or what to do because he seemed to effortlessly understand what was required in the scene and just delivered it.” He admitted to Billboard. “He obviously knew what it was like for Tom to be drunk at that moment, and the fact that he relied on drinks so heavily to get through quite a lot of the part of the early part of his life. We never discussed it.”

The scene was undoubtedly personal to the singer, personal enough for it to be an experience he referenced in the song “Falling” through the lines “And there’s no one to blame, but this drink in my wandering hands” and again in the song “To Be So Lonely” when he sings “Don’t blame me for falling, I was just a little boy, Don’t blame the drunk calling, Wasn’t ready for it all.”

The eyes are the window to the soul, as a lot of actors will say, and you can feel the emotion in Harry’s eyes throughout the film. The sadness, heartbroken longing, and unrequited love that lay within his muted green eyes relay a pain that cannot be made through acting.

the importance of the role to harry himself

Now here’s the part that will actually make you cry (if you’re anything like me at least). Harry proved that the story told in My Policeman means more to him than we could even imagine. It’s almost as if he needed to be in the film, like he was made for the film and the film was made for him.

Director Michael Grandage revealed to Deadline that he hadn’t even considered Styles for the role. After the script had circulated around the industry, Harry reached out himself, hoping to be considered. This in itself shows so much.

“…most of the time a director is in a room trying to convince an actor to be in a film. So, it was really interesting being in a room with somebody who had read the novel at least once, I could tell, read the screenplay multiple times, and was talking intelligently about what they wanted to bring to the role of Tom.

Michael Grandage

Harry read the book multiple times. He read the screenplay repeatedly before even auditioning. There must’ve been a feeling that he held so close to him, an experience that resonated with him so deeply, in order to allow his mind to be engulfed by the words of the story countless times. “It was very obvious I was in a room with somebody who was burning to play this role…” Michael Grandage told THR in an interview.

Grandage continued to describe in his interview with Deadline that Harry was drawn to playing an inner role instead of an external one. “He was interested in playing something internal where very little was given away.” He also spilled that Harry had been intrigued by the idea of playing a character that cannot express much emotion.

A lot of critics like to sit heavily on the fact that Styles didn’t seem very expressive throughout the film, but I think they fail to realize that that’s the entire point. Expression isn’t always an option, or at least the easy option. Sometimes, love doesn’t look conventional. Sometimes you have to look deeper for it, and Harry Styles as Tom Burgess is a powerful example of so.

The #HarryisTom spread around Twitter, as fans became outwardly angry at the direct homophobia from Harry’s team themselves. His team has always been spot-on when it comes to the marketing of every new project or movie Harry has done, well except for My Policeman. It’s as if they ignored it completely. His team never promoted, announced, or made the movie known. It’s concerning that Harry probably still is being silenced, that Harry still is more similar to Tom than we know. Maybe there’s a reason Harry speaks to us through his songs, music videos, and indirect quotes rather than just speaking with his words.

The biggest parallel that is undeniable between My Policeman and Harry Styles would have to be the reference to the art piece ‘My Bed’ by Tracey Emin. During one of the present-day portions of the film, Marion (Tom’s wife) reads about the art piece to Tom’s old lover, Patrick. The art piece consisted of a disheveled bed, surrounded by dirty laundry and a mess of objects. This piece was replicated in Harry’s music video for “Late Night Talking.”

There was an important significance to Emin’s powerful piece of art that was exhibited in the ’90s. It signifies the state of a woman’s bed during a depressive episode as she faces shame towards her sexuality. The piece was extremely controversial but held great power regardless. Marion read about it to Patrick as he laid in his own depressive bed after experiencing a life that only led him to feel shameful and regretful for his own sexuality. The artwork is uncanny to the bed in Harry’s music video, and we cannot help but cry at how genius he is, but also at how loudly he’s screaming at us. I wish he knew that we could hear him.

My Policeman is a story that makes our hearts heavy for both Tom Burgess and Harry Styles himself. On a happier note though, we are proud of Harry for not only taking on such a challenging and powerful role in the film, but also for becoming more than Tom could’ve ever dreamed of. Harry Styles didn’t let the world define him, but instead let himself define the world. He’s been our number one encourager to love who we want, even helping his fans come out during his live shows. I think if Tom Burgess was a real person, he would look up to Harry Styles the same way we do.

Abbi Donaldson is the President and Co-Campus Correspondent of Her Campus UCF who covers all things wellness and pop culture. She is a senior at the University of Central Florida with a major in Advertising & Public Relations with a minor in Mass Culture and Collective Behavior. Abbi loves all things campaign marketing and brand strategy related. You can typically find Abbi at the gym, a music festival or binging a YA romance novel.