October 21st, 2022
MOVIE: MY POLICEMAN
STARRING: HARRY STYLES, EMMA CORRIN, GINA MCKEE, LINUS ROACHE, RUPERT EVERETT, DAVID DAWSON
DIRECTED BY: MICHAEL GRANDAGE
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
The experiment of Harry Styles as an actor is not off to a good start. The music star has had two performances, first in Don’t Worry Darling and now in My Policeman, both not terrible in the sense of the word, but there is much to discuss, both with his delivery of dialogue, and the roles he’s taking. Michael Grandage’s adaptation of Bethan Roberts’ novel is not a story that shouldn’t be told but one of the many cinematic problems is that it’s likely a better novel. On top of that there is a genuine problem with characters, performances, and overall pacing, all of which make My Policeman a film that falls below the bar of awards season entries.
The narrative structure is capable in better hands but that’s not the case here. It begins in the present, with older versions of the main characters, then swapping between their 1950’s younger selves, which gives audiences a taste of where they are in the moment and how they got to this state. The problem with that is a sluggish pace, in a narrative that increasingly pushes you towards not caring for any of the three major players. We meet older Marian (Gina McKee) in her seaside home, with husband Tom (Linus Roache), and the bedroom being set up for Patrick (Rupert Everett) after his recent stroke. We flashback to the younger selves, Marian played by Emma Corrin, Tom played by Styles, and David Dawson as younger Patrick. The earlier time is the connection between these three, with young Marion a bit shy, meeting Tom through friends, and sparking a small friendship. They express their love for one another, but Patrick arrives out of nowhere, when he needs the help of a policeman, and an instant attraction is there, with the two engaging in a secret love during a time where homosexuality was viewed as a criminal offense. What transpires is a conflicted love triangle, with Tom and Patrick never able to be open with their love, causing a rift between the threem and not dealing with this matter till 40-years later.
From technical standpoints, My Policeman looks good, with elegant costumes, and set designs that create an authentic timeline. The major issues arise in the screenplay by Ron Nyswaner, where the chemistry between Styles and Dawson seems forced instead of romantic, while the very character of Marian is as wet of a blanket as it gets. With every revelation of deceit and miscommunications between characters, another rift builds, causing us to dislike them more. And then we get to the way Michael Grandage directs Styles, which is no fault of the directors, but a similar issue from Don’t Worry Darling. The performance is avoided and sheltered, where the majority of dialogue rests on Corrin and Dawson, while Styles is merely engaging in the romance. There is a lack of confidence in his acting, playing characters that are conflicted so he can easily play frustrated, but never needing the deeper nuance. It’s a complete separation of the earlier and older selves that causes both to feel like entirely separate movies and neither of them are necessarily good.
One of the points of My Policeman might be that we are not supposed to like the Marian character and all three seem to not have a single moment of joy together. Unlike a movie such as Y tu mama tambien, where the journey between the three characters is a mixture of emotional highs and lows, as the relationships contract with sexual passion. If there was a more vibrant energy injected into My Policeman we might be interested in where these relationships go. Instead the result is tragic and depressing from start to end.
Due to the larger production value, along with the hopes of what could be a mainstream LGBTQI film, it’s the incapable results that creates a movie that forget how to tell a romantic story. The back and forth pacing pulls us in and out of two opposite movie tones, leaving us wanting one over the other, till both don’t work at all. The tragedy of how gay men were persecuted and the tragedy of being forced to stay closeted has been done in a more emotionally impactful films. Instead we are left watching a story that is only surface-level material and too slow to make any audience care. There might be a better movie in My Policeman and it’s shortcomings are still a glaring crime.
MY POLICEMAN IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON PRIME NOVEMBER 4TH, 2022
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady