My Policeman (Review) – Is Harry Styles Actually A Movie Star?

DIRECTOR: Michael Grandage

CAST: Harry Styles, Linus Roache, Emma Corrin, Gina McKee, David Dawson, Rupert Everett, Kadiff Kirwan

RUNNING TIME: 113 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: A secret relationship upends the lives of three people in 1950s Britain…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

They really want to turn Harry Styles into a movie star, don’t they? While it’s certainly not uncommon for singers to occasionally give acting a fair try, there’s something particularly forceful about the way in which Styles has been thrust onto the screen, particularly this year where he’s been front and centre of the publicity campaign for Don’t Worry Darling, more than even that film’s actual lead Florence Pugh, and is now also the central marketing point for My Policeman – the Prime Video film adaptation of Bethan Roberts’ novel of the same name – despite him, once again, being more of an ensemble player than a leading man.

Let’s face it, though; the reason that both this and Don’t Worry Darling exist within the public consciousness in the first place is, well, because Harry Styles is in them. The intense fandom that follows him everywhere is so astronomical that it’s likely that both films, especially My Policeman, would have been long forgotten by this point, or maybe never have even been made, if he hadn’t been cast in them, making him much more of a successful marketing tool than a bona fide actor. However, in this case, it’s not as if Styles’ presence would have drastically improved an already mediocre project, but his lack of range as a screen performer (at least, this early in his career) certainly doesn’t make it soar above its station either.

The film takes place over two timelines, both set in Brighton; the first, set during the late 1950s, introduces Styles as Tom Burgess, a handsome young policeman who catches the eye of schoolteacher Marion (Emma Corrin), and the two soon hit it off and eventually wed. However, Tom is also heavily, and much more romantically, involved with Patrick (David Dawson), a museum curator who frequently fraternises with husband and wife, developing a strong friendship with both (and, in Tom’s case, more than just friendship). This being 1950s England, sadly, their shared bliss does not last very long, bringing us into the second timeline some fifty years later. Tom and Marion (Linus Roache and Gina McKee respectively) are still married, but whatever love they’ve had for each other is all but evaporated, something that is made all the more noticeable when an ailing Patrick (Rupert Everett) is put into their care after he suffers a stroke. His arrival brings to the surface a slew of secrets that they’ve all kept hidden all these years, forcing each of them to finally face the facts surrounding their true relationship with one another.

The problem with My Policeman is that for all of its hype (again, largely due to Styles), not to mention its good intentions given its subject matter, it’s a remarkably uninteresting story. Neither screenwriter Ron Nyswaner (who also wrote the much better gay-themed drama Philadelphia) nor director Michael Grandage manage to find a viable enough hook for their narrative, letting the resulting film meander aimlessly between timelines until minor conflict in each drives things towards an inevitably dour conclusion. There is an all-too stiff attitude to the drama that prevents much passion from finding its way into the film’s core, and so you rarely feel as though things are progressing as much as they need to because the flimsy structure doesn’t allow for significant development in this plot or with these characters. The central love triangle itself suffers as a result, because aside from being nothing you haven’t seen before when it comes to such dynamics, it never comes across as though these three people are ever as close or as involved with one another as the writing and direction wants you to believe.

Part of that is down to how the actors, particularly the younger ones, have very little genuine chemistry with each other. Emma Corrin, so captivating as the young Princess Diana in The Crown, struggles to develop a meaningful repertoire with either of her co-leads, and is left to simply utilise her perfected Diana stare to convey her drama rather than engage with the men she’s acting opposite. The closest she comes to generating actual connection is with David Dawson, who of the main actors is certainly the more compelling performer, and delivers a gentle turn that wrings sympathy without being too prying. And then, there’s Harry Styles himself, who here is dull with a lower-case “d”; beyond the fact that his Tom character is already written to be a rather bland protagonist, the actor simply lacks the emotional range and especially the charisma to pull a character like this off, so you never quite understand what either Corrin or Dawson see in this particularly uninteresting man. Styles is so wooden that he single-handedly makes it hard to buy that this love triangle is even a thing, which is a major and near-fatal flaw as so much of the drama rests on his shoulders, and the performer simply doesn’t have the weight, and certainly not the experience, to carry this kind of movie. As in Don’t Worry Darling, though, there is the occasional flash of movie-star quality in his performance (not to mention the fact that he does have the looks of a classical A-lister), but so far it hasn’t been utilised as well as it could be, which might just mean that with the right training and the time to really develop his skills, he could be good enough to overcome underwhelming direction as he and his co-stars are unfortunately saddled with here.

The film itself wouldn’t have been particularly good even if Styles wasn’t involved, for it is a dull and monotonous drama that struggles to make itself interesting enough for people to overlook its glaring faults. Sadly, it’s also a telling sign that Harry Styles simply isn’t the movie star that he’s being advertised as – at least, not yet.

SO, TO SUM UP…

My Policeman is a dull and monotonous drama that fails to make itself interesting or engaging enough for the casual viewer, particularly with the noticeable lack of chemistry between its main actors, including a sadly wooden Harry Styles, which makes it hard to care as much as it wants you to.

My Policeman is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

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