Name Recognition Can’t Lead ‘My Policeman’ Beyond Mediocrity
On paper, ‘My Policeman’ has everything a film released at the beginning of awards season should have for success – a character-driven drama that focuses on a societal wrong that’s been righted in recent years led by a big name.
Unfortunately, what’s on paper doesn’t always translate to the screen, which is exactly what’s happened here.
Harry Styles in ‘My Policeman.’ (Photo by Parisa Taghizadeh.)
Marion (Gina McKee) opens her family’s seaside retirement cottage to recovering stroke victim, Patrick (Rupert Everett), much to the chagrin of her husband, Tom (Linus Roache). It quickly becomes apparent that this trio has a history together, and it’s not likely all flowers and unicorns.
The narrative then begins weaving between the present and flashbacks to the 1950s, when a young Tom (Harry Styles), then a wet-behind-the-ears policeman, begins courting and eventually marries Marion (Emma Corrin). Around this same time, Tom also strikes up relationship with Patrick (David Dawson).
With homosexuality illegal at the time, and even more frowned upon for a police officer, Tom has to navigate a new marriage, a secret love affair, and how to keep everyone from taking the fall for the “crime.”
It’s a story we’ve seen before in one form or another many times before – forbidden love, infidelity, jealousy, anger, revenge, wasted lives, redemption. This one just happens to include a same sex relationship that could land each of its incredibly flawed characters behind bars because of the time in which the story takes place. By the time the credits rolled (just shy of two hours), I didn’t feel like I’d seen something novel or groundbreaking … it was just sort of there.
David Dawson, Emma Corrin, and Harry Styles in ‘My Policeman.’ (Photo: Parisa Taghizadeh. © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC)
One thing I’m really going to need someone to do one of these days is explain the Harry Styles phenomenon to me. I’ve listened to his music and I find it just OK. I’ve seen him in ‘Dunkirk’ and ‘Eternals’ and I’ll be circling back to ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ shortly. From that exposure, I’ll just come out and say that I find his acting rather pedestrian. He’s not unwatchable, but he hasn’t yet elevated anything (‘Dunkirk’ would’ve been great with or without him), and he seems robotic and unnatural. From all accounts he’s a generally good dude, but I’m not sure that’s enough for him to continue getting roles that could go to better/more established actors that could take a project to the next level.
Styles is once again robotic and unnatural here, but at least he isn’t alone. The rest of the characters, in either their young or old forms, were bland at their best, and equal parts unlikeable and unbelievable at their worst. There are no heroes here, there’s nothing to feel good or even empathetic about. These characters are simply petty and/or spiteful and seem to exist to do not much more than make each other’s lives miserable on some level.
Gina McKee and Linus Roache in ‘My Policeman.’ (Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video. © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC)
If there’s one standout here, it’s the cinematography of Ben Davis. He deftly captures the beauty of the seaside village the older versions of the characters inhabit and brings 1950s Britain to life with a kind of grainy, vintage feel. But even with as good as his work is, it’s not enough to make up for slog of a character piece with uninteresting characters.
It’s easy to see what director Michael Grandage was going for here, and I think the foundation was in place to tell a good story. But whether it’s due to the actors, the script, the director, or some combination of the three, it simply didn’t pan out.
★½ of ★★★★★