My Policeman was one of the most hotly-anticipated debuts of this year’s TIFF, especially considering the controversy that the other Harry Styles film, Don’t Worry Darling, has gathered on its festival tour. Unfortunately, this film is much less spicy, a largely bland and forgettable affair that features some of the most out-of-place performances of the year.
The film follows a couple who take in their old friend after he has a stroke, bringing back memories of a love triangle they had together decades earlier. No one was expecting this to be Oscar-level material, but audiences were hoping that it would at least be a decent acting showcase for its ensemble. In reality, it’s a Notebook-style story, but worse.
For those wondering how the film handles its complex themes of identity and homophobia, it fails miserably. Based on a novel by Bethan Roberts, this film should have been a slam dunk: a gay police officer in a time when homosexuality is outlawed as “indecency.” However, it’s just bland in its approach and doesn’t have anything new to say in the situation.
Surprisingly, audiences will leave the film feeling emotionally cold, which should not be the case with a film like this. The ending is a clear attempt to be a tear-jerker, but it’s delivered in a way that feels completely unnatural. Furthermore, the narrative structure of the film, cutting between the 1950s and 1990s, undermines any emotional resonance that the characters’ individual arcs could have had.
Indeed, the only reason My Policeman is getting as much attention as it will is the fact that it is popstar Harry Styles’s first major lead role (if you count Don’t Worry Darling as more supporting than lead), because other than that, it’s a pretty standard, sentimental romantic drama. And — perhaps unsurprisingly given the press rounds he’s been making — his performance isn’t even all that good. The big moments are unbelievable, and the subtle portions feel like he’s straining.
The rest of the cast fares slightly better than Styles, but that isn’t to say they do a good job. David Dawson is a highlight as Styles’s love interest, but Rupert Everett plays the older, post-stroke version in a way that is borderline offensive. As the older version of Styles’s character, Linus Roache feels like he is doing something entirely different and it makes no sense. However, Ema Corrin’s turn is the most iffy of the bunch, showing moments of greatness alongside some absolutely contrived bits.
From a technical level, the film is certainly competent, but it doesn’t do anything special. The whole thing feels very saturated and leans too heavily on the picturesque locations in which it is set to work. Steven Price’s score is the only aspect of the film that is quite nice, but it is overpowering within the context of the film.
My Policeman truly is a chore to get through. The script doesn’t seem to want to do anything more than the bare minimum, the performances are misguided, and the execution is about as average as it comes. This may have been meant to kickstart Harry Styles’s career as a moviestar, but it will only cement him as the latest meme in Hollywood. 4/5.
My Policeman screened at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, which runs September 8-18.