(Lainey: Sarah just posted about The Little Mermaid – remember when Harry Styles could have been in The Little Mermaid?)
My Policeman is Harry Styles’ other film coming out this fall, the one that requires no worrying, darling. Directed by Michael Grandage and adapted by Ron Nyswaner from Bethan Roberts’ novel of the same name, My Policeman is aiming to be one of those repressed British love stories set in a bygone era wherein no one says what they mean, and everyone is miserable, but it falls flat. To be fair, it’s not a BAD film, it’s just a boring one, without much to say. The plot revolves around a love triangle featuring Tom (Harry Styles as a young man, Linus Roache as an old one); Patrick (David Dawson, younger, Rupert Everett, older); and Marion (Emma Corrin, young lady, Gina McKee, older lady). Tom is a police constable in 1950s Brighton, England who begins dating schoolteacher Marion, even as the urbane museum curator, Patrick, starts third-wheeling their relationship.
At first, Marion thinks Patrick is just lonely, with no friends his own age, but it is soon revealed to the audience that Patrick and Tom already knew each other when Tom began dating Marion, and, in fact, they are closeted lovers. It’s the post-war years and being gay is still a crime, so they must hide their relationship. The film intercuts between the trio in the 1950s and some indeterminate time nearer to the present (it’s not really clear but I’m guessing 1990-ish). In that era, Patrick has suffered a debilitating stroke and requires care. Marion takes him in, but Tom refuses to look at, let alone speak to Patrick. Obviously, something happened between these three in the past. The dual dramatic irony of knowing something Marion doesn’t in the past, and knowing there is a secret to be revealed in the present(ish), gives My Policeman a little spark, but as soon as Marion discovers the truth, it is extinguished.
Once Marion knows, the film doesn’t really latch onto anything new. Marion’s emotional reckoning happens largely off screen, Patrick gets some passages in voiceover but is otherwise deprived of perspective, and Tom is a complete non-entity. Of course, he is repressed, so he would not be the most emotive character. But even through silence we do understand Marion and Patrick are suffering (Emma Corrin has long-suffering silences down pat). Tom, though, is a void. It’s somewhat baffling that two people, let alone one person as sophisticated as Patrick, would fall for him, except that he looks like Harry Styles. There are characters who are uncommunicative, and then there are characters who are simply blank, and Tom reads as a blank.
Styles’ performance doesn’t help much. Roache, at least, presents an older Tom who is resentful of his wife for digging up the long-buried past, who is now not only repressing his sexuality but also his bitterness that he never got be with the man he loved. But Styles is more of a cipher, his performance is not particularly interesting, he doesn’t suggest much of an inner life for Tom, and there are a few moments where his line reads are atrociously bad. It’s not a disastrous performance, but it’s not distinguishing, either. Styles is known for his magnetism on stage, but here, none of that charisma comes across.
Rupert Everett fares the best as older Patrick, locked in his body, barely able to move or speak. His reunion with Tom is bittersweet, coming at the end of his life, when it’s too late to really talk about everything that happened. Tom has a similar regret, mourning what could have been, had only he and Patrick been born later. Marion, though, never comes into focus. Gina McKee tries her best, but she basically has to communicate an entire lifetime of development through a series of blinks and stares. Or non-development, it’s never actually clear if Marion grows into a greater understanding of the human condition, or if she just got better at not saying the quiet part out loud. All the actors are trying—Harry Styles tangibly so—but the script is thin and Grandage isn’t doing much interesting with it. It leaves everyone stranded amidst a listless love triangle, at the heart of an equally listless film.
My Policeman will screen in limited theaters from October 21, before premiering on Amazon Prime on November 4, 2022.