My Policeman premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on September 11, 2022, and is a 1950s queer drama that portrays the story of Tom Burgess (Harry Styles), a closeted police officer in London who is caught between a fake life, and a passionate, but secret, reality. Tom is married to Marion (Emma Corrin) and plays the doting straight husband, having tamped down his true self to do so. That is until, in Styles’ own words during the preceding press conference, “When (Tom) meets someone like Patrick who is well traveled and likes art, he finds himself curious about those things”. Patrick Hazelwood (David Dawson) is Tom’s love interest in the film, the one who allows him to be his truest self, and who understands Tom in a way Marion is fundamentally unable to.
Two closeted men falling in love in 1950s England presents the added pressure of their relationship being an illegal act. Add in Styles’ character being a police officer and you can imagine the depth of emotion this film will bring to viewers. Tom, on some level, does care for his wife Marion; but when Tom asks Partick to share himself with Marion, you can’t help but feel for Patrick whose hands are tied if he wants to be with Tom. As Styles aptly put it in his song, Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart (sold to Ariana Grande but occasionally performed live by Styles): “I know I’m not your only, but at least I’m one. I heard a little love is better than none”.
For the press conference portion, the cast and director (Michael Grandage) spoke eloquently and thoughtfully about the movie’s plot, bringing attention to the importance of the message it conveys. When asked about the journey of self-acceptance the characters embark on, Corrin stated Tom and Patrick were faced with coming to terms with who they are in a society that does not allow for them to be themselves. Dawson, for his part, talked about his adoration for his character and his ability to remain unhardened and determined to find joy despite the oppressive world he is in. When Styles was given an opportunity to answer, he went on a several-minute impassioned explanation about the complexity and nuances of the story, as well as the running theme of wasted time, which he stated is the “most devastating” aspect for him. Everyone involved seemed at ease, present, and comfortable with the subjects presented and it was reflected in their touching and informative statements on some very serious aspects of queer culture. One of the most harrowing truths came from Grandage when he stated “The world that we find ourselves in now is very different from the one that’s represented in the film, in 1957. Although, for the first time in my life I think that is a little fragile at the moment.” The validity of this sentiment was reflected across the solemn expressions of the all-queer cast.
Following the press conference, Styles arrived on the red carpet in light green trousers, a dark green overcoat, and carrying a small green purse. However, the biggest statement piece of his outfit was easily the very large green flower pinned to his lapel. The significance of this fashion choice goes all the way back to 1892 when Oscar Wilde, queer poet and playwright, requested a trusted group of friends to wear a green carnation on their coats for the opening of one of his comedy shows. Since then, wearing a green carnation on your lapel has been a symbol within the queer community of being a man who loves another man. This subtly lets those who know know and excludes those who may not be accepting from the narrative altogether. Most interestingly, Styles put his own spin on the carnation by using the green lily, symbolic of a long-term romantic relationship. The rest of the cast notably wore all black, fans speculating the intention being to give Styles his moment in bright color, donning a purse, and wearing a long-standing queer symbol pinned above his heart after weeks of queerbaiting accusations. The silent moment of solidarity showcased the support and friendship that grew while working together on set.
The young actors hung closely together, posing for pictures, smiling, whispering jokes, and all-around having a great time. Each took a moment to themselves while the others stood back and their co-stars had their individual time to shine. Styles adorably helped Corrin with their long train all night, sticking close to carry it for them or jokingly tugging on it to lead them where they needed to be. Small gestures like these displayed the connection this cast shares and were backed up by multiple statements of the trust that was built on set and how lucky they each felt to have the opportunity to work in such a pleasant environment.
The film has brought a positive spotlight to Styles’ acting career, bringing in waves of positive reviews from fans and critics alike. One journalist sent out a tweet stating that he had never quite understood the draw people feel toward the artist and actor, but after seeing him in person at the premiere described his presence as “disarming” and praised how “eloquent he is about his work”. Another called the movie “spectacular” and stated that it is “Hard to imagine a stronger Oscar contender from the Brits”. The positive feedback has continued to roll in from every direction, and will likely continue after the release date.
Later in the evening, My Policeman won the TIFF Tribute Award for Performance, which is the first time this particular award has gone to an ensemble rather than an individual. The cast beamed with pride as they took turns giving thanks for the award and stating their pride in the project they created together. Dawson addressed the audience to describe the film as “a story of love and friendship, of longing and passion, and regret and forgiveness”, ending one very wholesome and didactic premiere for My Policeman on a high note.
My Policeman Press Conference Q&A- TIFF 2022
TIFF Red Carpet 2022