There’s a moment in My Policeman where Harry Styles’s eponymous copper Tom stands behind his love interests, school teacher Marion (The Crown’s Emma Corrin) and museum curator Patrick (David Dawson), as they marvel at a painting. Their eyes light up at the work of art on the wall while his dart back and forth between the pair, blankly. It’s a scene that represents not just the cultural differences between the trio, but the acting talent too, in a romantic drama that leaves you as cold as a dip in the English Channel.
Directed by Michael Grandage, and adapted by Philadelphia screenwriter Ron Nyswaner from Bethan Roberts’s 2012 novel, the film takes place exclusively in England’s south coast town of Brighton, where the older versions of Marion and Tom (played by Gina McKee and Linus Roache) have been living a pretty uneventful life.
To Tom’s chagrin, she agrees to care for their old acquaintance Patrick (Rupert Everett), who cannot speak or move much after suffering a stroke. Thus begins the trips down memory lane; first through Marion’s recollection of her courtship with Tom in the 1950s, then through Patrick’s diaries, where the drab, cold lighting of the ’90s switches to a more saturated, warmer aesthetic.
Styles certainly looks the dishy policeman in his uniform and out, so Marion and Patrick’s mutual infatuation with Tom is perfectly understandable. But beyond sharp tailoring, good hair and a dreamy smile there’s not much to the character or the actor who struggles to deliver his dialogue without sounding like he’s reading lines (pick an accent, Harry!). Dawson and Corrin carry every scene they’re in with the pop star but even their characters have nothing much going on beyond wanting to make this policeman their own. At a time when homosexuality was illegal, Tom hardly seems worth the risk for a catch like Patrick.
Styles struggles to deliver his dialogue without sounding like he’s reading lines
Even with the more assured performances in the older crowd, there’s a lack of interiority or deeper understanding of each character’s motives – other than the superficial. Variously throughout the film, close-ups of hands stroking marble, bodies or linking fingers try their best to create a sense of visual intimacy that the script fundamentally lacks. In its absence, all that’s left is a run-of-the-mill queer story with one dimension.
In US and UK cinemas Oct 21. Streaming on Amazon Prime Nov 4.