My Policeman, 2022.
Directed by Michael Grandage.
Starring Harry Styles, Emma Corrin, David Dawson, Gina McKee, Linus Roache, Rupert Everett, Dora Davis, Kadiff Kirwan, Andrew Tiernan, and Jack Bandeira.
The arrival of Patrick into Marion and Tom’s home triggers the exploration of seismic events from 40 years previously.
While strolling around the beachside of 1950s Brighton, Patrick (David Dawson) tells Tom (pop sensation Harry Styles still trying to crack acting) that he is more open-minded. As a police officer during those times, it’s a noteworthy observation; Tom is quiet and sensitive, lacking aggression because he genuinely wants to help people with his profession, and is curious to learn about the arts from Tom.
There is a wealth of ideas to explore in contrast between a closeted policeman in the fifties coming into his homosexuality with a freethinking artist; it’s two different worlds colliding with fairly decent sexual chemistry for a doomed romance. Ironically, director Michael Grandage (using a script from Ron Nyswaner and based on the book by Bethan Roberts inspired by E.M. Forster’s life and relations with a police officer) doesn’t even seem to care about the policeman aspect of My Policeman.
Even if the filmmakers did, the approach to My Policeman is all wrong, which often plays as a standard love triangle ripped from the 1990s between two gay men and an unsuspecting woman. In 2022, it’s still the definition of Oscar bait, but at least back then, this kind of movie would feel daring and revolutionary. For today’s climate, it’s a competently made disappointment.
In the realm of Harry Styles, it could be perceived as shedding skin and another attempt at serious-mindedly stepping into another entertainment medium, but as a performer, he is no better here than he was in the recently released Don’t Worry Darling, which is not good; any time the script calls for him to be a dreamy heartthrob or soft-spoken, he is serviceable, but whenever emotions are heightened in turn demanding more from him as an actor, the cracks further fracture until everything falls apart.
There is also a woefully misguided decision not only to frame My Policeman with a look at these characters in the future but repeatedly check in there, regularly killing all momentum. 40 something years later, Patrick (Linus Roache) suffered a stroke and, rather than allow him to end up in a nursing home, has been taken in by former best friend Marion (Gina McKee). It’s a decision that tears a rift in the isolated and quiet existence Tom (Linus Roache) and Marion) have eked out, making it evident that whatever happens between the three of them in the 50s blew up and did not end well.
The character perspectives seem to shift across every act, yet hardly anyone is given any depth. There is rarely a sense of danger or urgency regarding Tom and Patrick getting caught once the latter makes a romantic move and unlocks his true desires, and it’s baffling how long it takes Marion to piece together what’s happening. There’s a moment where it’s confirmed with her own eyes, and while it does make her jealous and rightfully feel betrayed, she still requires a confession to believe it. And then when she does, My Policeman barrels towards a melodramatic, overcooked finale that does admittedly have one moving visual touch to the final scene, but that’s it.
There’s a brief section where Tom is caught between forbidden love and wanting to start a family with Marion, causing an argument here and there with Patrick. In these moments, there is palpable conflict and intrigue as we see the thought to be open-mindedness of Tom fading away and reverting toward the traditional mindset of the times (including a bit where he encourages Marion to be a stay-at-home spouse instead of pursuing her dreams).
Unfortunately, My Policeman doesn’t press and pry into that inner turmoil. The slow-burn pacing is appreciated and shows a desire to treat this material with a sensitive touch, and the general story is moderately compelling, but there is practically no engagement with the themes at the center of the story. Ultimately, it’s another failed opportunity to elevate Harry Styles in the acting world. He certainly isn’t my actor.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]