• Nate Adams

'My Policeman' review: Harry Styles led Queer drama has passion, but lacks chemistry

Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

 

Harry Styles’ second drama this year about the dangers and misconceptions that come with the married life following the polarizing "Don't Worry Darling," “My Policeman” is certainly a stronger acting showcase compared to the singer’s previous outing, but at the cost of a narrative that sputters and stalls more often than it clicks. Styles has made headlines recently, talking about Queer representation and how mainstream gay love scenes lack passion. Nobody will say the sex scenes in “My Policeman” are lackluster, in fact, it’ll certainly give Styles fans plenty to swoon over and you’ll likely see snippets populate the internet out of context, but “My Policeman” can never sell itself beyond the limitations of those sequences. Sure there’s passion, but what about the emotional urgency?


Most of that falls on Styles who struggles to convey the film's heavier emotional beats, consistently overextending and overacting. As a tall, handsome policeman in 1950s Brighton, England, the popular singer looks the role, but at no point does he fully embody it. Not for a lack of trying as they’re elements in Ron Nyswaner’s screenplay (based on the book by Bethan Roberts) out of the actor’s control, like the introduction of an awkward and contemporary framing device that splits timelines between the ‘50s and present day. For the majority of “My Policeman,” Styles plays Tom Burgess, a cheery constable grappling and contending with same-sex desires in a career and community that’ll dismantle (and imprison) him if caught.


He tries to unsuccessfully dissuade himself from the urges and begins a romantic courtship with Marion (Emma Corrin of “The Crown”) who believes a man should always be looking to improve his stature and attitude. Director Michael Grandage conventionally deconstructs this specific relationship with mild-mannered theatrics while Tom begins having an affair with Patrick (the enigmatic David Dawson), a local museum curator who sees through the forced heterosexual gaze. As the story moves in sync with Tom and Patrick’s steamy rendezvous (plus an impromptu trip to Venice), Marion begins suspecting the platonic relationship might have bigger implications. But she doesn’t say anything because she’s both in denial and afraid of confrontation.


Meanwhile, the present-day storyline takes place at the seaside home of Tom (Linus Roache) and Marion (Gina McKee) with its own set of conflicts. Especially after Marion agrees to care for a stroke-affected resident played by an unrecognizable Rupert Everett, something that infuriates Tom for reasons that’ll become insanely obvious the longer things drag on. Structurally, it creates a strange and convoluted narrative trail as the movie bounces back and forth in the timeline while Marion pores through diary entries that reflect the 1950s thread of events. 


What’s left of “My Policeman” is a half-baked gay drama that shows no spark between the central lovers. Styles and Dawson, for all their efforts, don’t have much verve outside of the bedroom (unlike Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane displayed in the recent romantic comedy “Bros”). In addition, Grandage tries painting a portrait around the injustices and mistreatments of homosexuals over the past five decades (especially in the UK), but everything feels by the book, unafraid of branching out beyond bulleted talking points and mechanical/mundane dialogue. I was a champion of Styles' performance in “Don’t Worry Darling” and there are aspects worth appreciating here, but the singer still has ways to go before proving himself as a movie star. 


Grade: C


MY POLICEMAN opens in theaters Friday October 21st before debuting on Prime Video, November 4th.