‘My Policeman’: Toronto Review | Reviews – Armessa Movie News

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Dir: Michael Grandage. UK. 2022. 113 mins. 

 “All love stories are tragic,” warns a character in My Policeman, a drama in which the besotted rarely find a happy ending. Michael Grandage’s tasteful study of a romantic triangle in 1950s Britain stars Harry Styles as a bobby who longs to marry his girlfriend (Emma Corrin) while secretly continuing his relationship with his closeted boyfriend (David Dawson). This adaptation of Bethan Roberts’ novel is full of repressed emotions and the occasional tearful recrimination, but the stateliness of the proceedings eventually becomes stifling rather than absorbing, draining this doomed love affair of its potential to break the heart.

Despite Ben Davis’ graceful lensing and Steven Price’s emphatically weepy score, My Policeman is so reserved as to feel mannered

Premiering in Toronto, where the film’s ensemble will receive the TIFF Tribute Actor Award, My Policeman opens in US theatres on October 21 before streaming on Prime Video starting November 4. Styles’ pop stardom will help lure viewers — as will Corrin’s award-winning turn as Princess Diana in The Crown — although the film’s restrained melancholy may appeal more to older audiences. 

In the present, retired schoolteacher Marion (Gina McKee) has welcomed Patrick (Rupert Everett) into the home she shaes with husband Tom (Linus Roache). Patrick, with whom she shares a past, has recently suffered a debilitating stroke, and Tom isn’t pleased at his arrival. To understand why, My Policeman flashes back to the late 1950s, when policeman Tom (Styles) becomes smitten with the elegant, cultured Marion (Corrin). At the same time, he and Patrick (Dawson), a stylish museum curator, have forged a close friendship, the trio soon spending all their time together. 

Theatre director Grandage, whose feature debut was 2016’s Genius, glides back and forth between eras, with the present-day Marion reading Patrick’s 1950s journal, the incidents described playing out on screen. Scripted by Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia), My Policeman allows Marion to gain a greater sense of the threesome’s early days, when she first fell for Tom without realising he secretly adored Patrick. But because of British laws cracking down on “deviant” homosexual behaviour, Tom and Patrick must keep their relationship private, with Tom deciding to marry Marion in part as a career move — single policemen have less chance of rising up the ranks — and also because he wants to have children. 

The performances are nicely tailored to the time periods, with the younger actors full of hope but – in the case of Styles and Dawson – also anxiety, as their characters steadfastly conceal part of themselves from the world. With Everett’s Patrick unable to speak clearly, the contemporary segments are anchored by McKee, whose Marion is still processing her husband’s true romantic desires. (As the older Tom, Roche is all indignant impatience playing the former cop wanting to forget his youth.)  

But despite Ben Davis’ graceful lensing and Steven Price’s emphatically weepy score, My Policeman is so reserved as to feel mannered, both its clandestine love story and late-reel revelations a tad too tidy in their studied sorrow. Styles and Dawson have an elegant rapport, their sex scenes bringing some heat to an otherwise buttoned-up production, but neither character succeeds in being particularly complicated or tormented — which is surprising, considering both men risk imprisonment if their relationship is uncovered. Styles in particular fails to illustrate how torn Tom is: this policeman genuinely cares for Marion but lusts for Patrick, all the while trying to deny a fundamental element of himself for fear of societal reprisals. Still early in his career, the actor (who plays a very different man with secrets in Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling) doesn’t have the depth to convey Tom’s tortured soul.

The film’s strong point may be Corrin, whose Marion is in her own state of denial and refusing to see the truth about her husband. But that denial is also laced with bigotry, which becomes alarmingly apparent once the stakes escalate and one of the two men ends up in prison, prompting a surprising response from Marion. In some ways, the character is awfully familiar — the sweetly loving wife who is betrayed — but Corrin fights to give her a fresh dimension.

Eventually, the audience will learn precisely what happened between Tom, Richard and Marion in the past — and why Tom doesn’t want to see Richard now. But the present-day sequences don’t add much context to the events of the 1950s, and when the melodramatic surprise is unveiled in the present, it doesn’t deliver the shock it should. Grandage mourns for those who had to hide their love and pretend to be someone else so they wouldn’t be persecuted. Those tragic stories are worth telling, but My Policemen is ultimately too genteel for the task. 

Production company: BSF

Worldwide distribution: Amazon Studios

Producers: Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, Robbie Rogers, Cora Palfrey, Philip Herd

Screenplay: Ron Nyswaner, based on the book by Bethan Roberts

Cinematography: Ben Davis

Production design: Maria Djurkovic 

Editing: Chris Dickens

Music: Steven Price

Main cast: Harry Styles, Emma Corrin, Gina McKee, Linus Roache, David Dawson, Rupert Everett 

 

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