TIFF ’22: Harry Styles Leads A Doomed Romantic Drama With A Sincere Performance

Photo by Evan Agostini

2022 has shaped up to be a big year for pop star Harry Styles. He’s released a new album, went on tour and has two of the fall’s most prominent film releases under his belt.

Don’t Worry Darling had us all worrying, and not just about the cast drama. When it had its world premiere in Venice, people weren’t the biggest fan of Styles’ acting which naturally made me apprehensive about his ability to portray the titular character in My Policeman, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

My Policeman, directed by Micheal Grandage and written by Ron Nyswaner, is a story about love and betrayal within a doomed love triangle between a schoolteacher, a museum curator and, of course, the policeman. There’s a dual timeline of past and present alternating between 1950s Brighton and 1990s Peacehaven. We follow Marion (Emma Corrin) and Tom (Harry Styles) as they begin dating, and shortly after, Patrick (David Dawson) enters their relationship unbeknownst to the schoolteacher.

Forty years later, Patrick (Rupert Evertt) suffers from a stroke and, for a reason revealed towards the end of the film, Marion (Gina Mckee) offers to take care of him and moves him to the home she shares with Tom (Linus Roache).

The film is based on a novel of the same name by Bethan Roberts, and as someone who has read the book, it’s safe to say Grandage and Nyswaner were faithful to the story at its core; a glimpse into the life of a closeted man who had to repress his true self in a place where it would do him more harm than good. The story’s narrative is woven into a mystery of sorts through the alternating stories. The film compels you to dig for an understanding of each character, the choices behind their actions at the time, and how they changed through the years. Styles was surprisingly convincing as Tom, the dashing policeman who starts an affair with Patrick, a slightly older gentleman who has had past lovers while Tom hasn’t. The character’s inexperience as he explores himself and navigates the affair is similar to the one we sense from Styles’ performance, but it still translates well on screen. 

David Dawson as the youthful, passionate, and humorous Patrick and Gina McKee as the elder Marion, who is trying her hardest to reconcile with her husband but isn’t getting anywhere, are the clear standouts of this film (it was evident to everyone in the theatre as well when applause for McKee rivalled that of Harry Styles as she walked on stage post-screening). Dawson and McKee both provide performances that are so full of yearning, feeling, and tenderness.

My Policeman accomplishes what it set out to do, telling a story of a time in the UK when queer folk weren’t allowed to be wholly themselves and the consequence of that alienation and suppression. The film is a captivating blend of complexity and vulnerability and has an equal part heartbreaking yet freeing final act that will sit with you long after viewing.

My Policeman had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11th. It releases in theatres on October 21 and will be available to stream on Prime Video on November 4.

by Kadija Osman

Kadija Osman is based in Toronto, Ontario and is currently completing her undergrad in journalism at Ryerson University. She enjoys writing about film and TV. When she isn’t watching Timothée Chalamet’s filmography, she is probably reading romance and thriller novels or ranting about the disappointing cancellation of E!’s The Royals. Her favourite films include Kingsman: The Secret Service, Lady Bird and Ready or Not. You can find her on Twitter: @kadijaosman_ and Letterboxd

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.