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MY POLICEMAN (2022) l  Prime  |  November 4, 2022

Starring: Harry Styles, Emma Corrin, David Dawson, Rupert Everett, Gina McKee

Director: Michael Grandage

The arrival of Patrick into Marion and Tom's home triggers the exploration of seismic events from 40 years previously.

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TIFF REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus

My Policeman is an honest and emotional look at the devastating choices of young love in the 1950s that tells an engaging story, even if it feels like it could have been a much stronger film with an improved screenplay. 

 

At this past weekend’s world premiere, the theatre was full of excited people eagerly awaiting their chance to see Harry Styles in person and his performance in the film. While I am not a huge fan of his by any standards, I was impressed with him in the post credit scene of Eternals and was interested to see what he could do in a leading role. And while I don’t think it was an extraordinary performance from Styles, he was good and I could see the promising talent that he possesses as an actor that just needs a few more roles for him to fully access it. 

 

My Policeman tells two concurrent stories: the first being that of Tom, a young policeman, who begins dating the beautiful Marion. But Tom is secretly seeing Patrick, and the two men must keep their relationship secret as homophobia is illegal in the United Kingdom at that time. The second story line follows the three of them, forty years later after Patrick suffers from a stroke and Marion brings Patrick to her and Tom’s house to care for him. While the audience is largely left in the dark as to what happened between the three individuals in the past, we slowly learn as the characters remember what happened all those years ago and through Marion’s reading of Patrick’s journals. Exploring themes of the consequences of love and its destructive power, resulting in a far more engaging plot than if it were just to focus on the romance itself and gloss over the effects on both generations of characters. This creates an emotionally honest narrative that really hooks the audience and places a massive lump in your throat at the film’s climax, elevating the film where the character development lacks. 

 

The film shifts the narration between Marion and Patrick, giving audiences two diverging views of the events from two individuals who love Tom. It is an effortless shift that is an interesting way to frame the narrative structure of the film, but the film fails to give us true insight into Tom and his perception of the events, which is the biggest downfall of the film. We see two views of the film’s main character, but we never get into Tom’s mind and fully understand his character or inner thinkings. Ultimately, this does not help Styles’s performance. In the more dramatic moments with lots of emotional stakes, Styles shines and fully draws you into the difficult situation his character faces, showing his true acting ability. But between these moments, it feels like Styles is on stage at a concert rather than fully embodying his character, as given what his character was meant to be going through, he should not have been smiling that much at the camera. It is in no way a bad performance, it's a very good performance, but I can’t help but imagine what we will see from Styles once he has a few leading performances and experience under his belt. Because there is something magical there for him as an actor. 

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This film ultimately belongs to Emma Corrin as Marion, who easily has the most fascinating character arc of the film. We see Marion go from being madly in love with her boyfriend/husband, to discovering the shocking secret he has been hiding from her for their entire relationship, unsure of how she can save her husband and salvage their relationship. It’s a nuanced performance from Corrin, continuing to dazzle after her career-making performance as Princess Diana in the most recent season of The Crown. The pain that Corrin embodies, especially in the final act where she gets to work with the best writing of the entire film, hits the audience right in the stomach and is the emotional suckerpunch the film needs. This bleeds into the dramatic events of the future timeline, with Gina McKee being just as impactful as Corrin, even if she is building her performance around that of what Corrin did in the earlier timeline. 

 

The rest of the ensemble cast of Rupert Everett, Linus Roache and David Dawson are all good, each delivering an impactful performance that does exactly what the script calls for. Especially Da who has the best writing after Corrin and a wonderful on screen chemistry with both Corrin and Styles. But at the end of the day, the screenplay did not fully realize the characters of Tom and Patrick, leaving the rest of the supporting cast members with little material to work with at times. 

 

From a visual standpoint, the film has some great cinematography. The 1990s timeline is very muted, with lots of shots showing the characters watching each other, catching their guilt and the way they look at each other and reminisce and regret the actions of their past. Whereas the cinematography in the 1950s sequence starts off much brighter and has more group shots, emulating the excitement and warmth of young love, before becoming more muted as the 1950s plot line builds towards the film’s conclusion. And throw in a stirring musical score from Steven Price, that works wonders in the film’s climax to really deliver that emotional gut punch to the audience, and you have a well crafted film even if it does not reach the source material’s full potential. 

 

Director Michael Grandage has directed a fine film, pulling together some solid performances to tell a story that is important to him. However, the screenplay holds him back from delivering the masterpiece that he desired to make. While there is no doubt everyone will be tuning into My Policeman for Harry Styles, who is good, it is the sensational Emma Corrin who will steal your heart in a film that tells an emotional story focused more on the devastating consequences of love rather than the fairytale romance we too often see in this genre.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5