Director: Michael Grandage
Cast: Harry Styles, Emma Corrin, Gina McKee, Linus Roache, David Dawson, Rupert Everett
Screenplay: Ron Nyswaner
113 mins. Rated R for sexual content.
As we close out 2022, I’ve been trying to catch all the movies that passed me by throughout the year, especially the ones that ended up on streaming, as my focus tends to shift toward the theatrical (for I am, myself, rather theatrical). I recently caught half of the Harry Styles (Dunkirk) output with Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, so I figured it was time to take on the other half with My Policeman over on Amazon Prime.
Marion (Gina McKee, Phantom Thread, Atonement) and her husband Tom (Linus Roache, Batman Begins, Mandy) have taken in their ailing friend Patrick (Rupert Everett, Shrek 2, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) following a stroke. Marion finds that Patrick seems to want no help from her with his feeding and care, and he frequently asks to see Tom, who has been absent from Patrick’s side since he arrived. As time goes on, she remembers back to her courtship with Tom, the beginnings of their friendship with Patrick, and the dangerous secret that destroyed all three of them: the hidden romance between Tom and Patrick as young men.
My Policeman is a film set in two alternating time periods. There is the more current time of older Tom, Marion, and Patrick, and the flashbacks with the younger actors: Styles, Emma Corrin (Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Misbehaviour) and David Dawson (All the Old Knives). The portion of the film featuring the older actors is the stronger of the two, where an actor like Linus Roache makes the absolute most of a smaller amount of screen time as Older Tom. His is a man of significant regrets, riddled with a lifetime of indecision and understandable pain. The sequences where he reckons with his past are the most engaging, if few and far between, and the mystery of what drove these three lives apart becomes a driving force in the narrative. All three Older character performances are quite good (although underutilized).
The screenplay, from Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia, The Painted Veil), does not reinvent storytelling, but it’s a tight narrative that touches on familiar topics with elegance. Director Michael Grandage (Genius, Red) took it and developed that screenplay into a workable albeit pedestrian final product. Again, there’s no reinvention to the film, nothing stylistic to set it apart from any number of other similar films, but MOST of the performances make the film worth checking out.
But we simply must discuss Harry Styles here. I honestly feel like I’m piling on the Harry Styles hate train, but I’m not one to slam artists and performers without constructive criticism. I liked Styles in Dunkirk (it was a small role, but he was fine with what was requested of him) and I can’t really call out such a small cameo in Eternals when it had so many other issues with its post-credit scenes, but his work in both Don’t Worry Darling and My Policeman show an utter lack of experience as an actor. He seems to work in only two functions: completely lackadaisical and shouting emotional wreck. That’s not me saying he can’t improve. I used to have real struggles with Channing Tatum, but he took the time to learn the craft and choose the right roles for his skill set, and now I look forward to seeing him in films. The idea that Harry Styles should co-lead two films without more than a handful of film credits to his name just because he (reportedly) memorized the film script for My Policeman is frustrating. I think he has the ability to act and improve the skill, but he needs to put forth an effort before he returns to leading narrative features or popping back into the MCU. His work is perhaps all the more weak here because he shares a character with an actor who can do so much more with so much less screen time.
My Policeman has one leading performance dragging down a well-acted narrative that is perhaps a little too simplistic for some viewers, but I found enough here to recommend it. It’s still the better of the Harry-Styles-plays-a-bad-husband cinematic universe from this year. Thankfully, there are some great performances from Linus Roache, Emma Corrin, and David Dawson that elevate the material. Check the film out on Amazon Prime.
-Kyle A. Goethe