First things first. Harry Styles is not the worst thing about Michael Grandage’s film adaptation of Bethan Roberts’ novel “My Policeman” (Amazon Studios).
That distinction falls squarely on the shoulders of the director, but he’s not alone.
One of the issues is that it’s strange how specific Oscar-nominated screenwriter Ron Nyswaner (“Philadelphia”) is about the sections of “My Policeman” that are set in the past (1957 and 1958), and yet so vague about the later setting which is said to be the late ‘90s. This tends to cause some confusion because the main characters are represented by different actors portraying them during each time period. The older Patrick (Rupert Everett), whose health is on the decline (he’s recovering from a stroke), looks considerably older than Tom (Linus Roache) and Marion (Gina McKee). However, in the scenes set in the 1950s, the visible age differences appeared to be somehow less so.
The “policeman” of the title is Tom (Styles), a young British constable, who begins a courtship with schoolteacher Marion (queer actor Emma Corrin), who is a friend of Tom’s sister. In the early days of their relationship, Tom introduces Marion to Brighton Museum curator Patrick (David Dawson). Patrick is everything Tom isn’t; cultured, educated, and as subtly gay as one could be at the time.
After Patrick meets Tom on the street when the officer’s services are required, they strike up a friendship. Patrick, who also has artistic aspirations invites Tom to his flat to be drawn (I see you rolling your eyes!), and one thing leads to another. Meanwhile, when he introduces Marion to Patrick, he makes it seem like there’s less familiarity between them than really exists. Nevertheless, soon, the trio is attending the opera, museum exhibitions, and driving around town together.
Patrick is aware of Tom’s relationship with Marion, while Marion is completely in the dark about Tom enjoying the best that both worlds have to offer him. These sequences, including Marion’s interactions with a fellow schoolteacher who comes out to her as a lesbian, are the better parts of the movie (although that’s not saying much). However, what should have been erotically charged is sluggish and muted.
Still, it’s far better than the unbelievably awkward scenes set in the movie’s later years. No one, especially not Everett, comes off looking good. Roache’s brooding read as Patrick, McKee’s hollow portrayal of Marion, and Everett gumming the scenery is an unfortunate combination that ultimately sinks the whole thing.
If you’re at the multiplex trying to decide between queer offerings such as “My Policeman” and “Bros,” definitely go for “Bros.” You won’t be disappointed.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the poetry chapbook Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.