TORONTO — The new Harry Styles-led movie “My Policeman” fancies itself a sweeping love story about a connection between two men so strong that their passion, even through separation, lasts five decades.
How beautiful. Or it would be, if at any point during the British bore, which premiered Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival, we believed that the main characters actually loved each other.
Running time: 113 minutes. Rated R (sexual content). In theaters Oct. 21. On Prime Video Nov. 4
Styles plays the titular policeman (a word uttered so, so many times) in 1952 England named Tom, who starts to realize he’s gay after he meets Patrick (David Dawson), a confident art museum curator. He’s so sure of himself that he slips Tom his business card after he reports a crime. Romantic?
The pair begin canoodling one night when Patrick drunkenly sketches Tom at his Brighton flat, “Titanic”-style. Confused Tom leaves in a hurry, and later comes crawling back in an emotional storm. Then we watch scene after scene of them naked together in bed. That sentence surely just sent rabid Styles fans racing to Fandango.
Still, as directed by Michael Grandage — the British stage vet who dared make Disney’s “Frozen the Musical” dreary and heartless — there is no euphoria or even happiness in their meetups. Behind closed doors, the relationship should be light and easy. Tom and Patrick should represent freedom from the ’50s oppression waiting for them outside the door.
Their private, youthful world must contrast with the dramatically-crashing-waves frame story set in 1999, when older Tom (Linus Roache) lives with his wife Marion (Gina McKee), and they take in older Patrick (Rupert Everett) after he’s had a stroke. Now, they are cold stones who no longer speak. Those present-day scenes are darker, both in tone and appearance, than a Norwegian winter.
Back in 1952, Tom continues seeing Patrick while courting their mutual friend Marion (Emma Corrin), even going so far as to marry her and then jet off to Venice with him. Marion becomes aware of their affair, but keeps the pain bottled up, and all three behave horribly cruel toward one another.
Styles, to his credit, is a solid actor with a bright future in hopefully brighter movies should he choose to pursue that path. The pop star has the requisite intensity, honest chemistry with is co-stars and sizes his performance just right for the screen. One can also never underestimate raw star power.
Dawson does well in the more mysterious part. He has an enigmatic look and voice that keeps us wondering about Patrick’s past.
And who doesn’t adore the gutsy Emma Corrin, who can hop from lamb-like innocence to irrepressible malice in an instant? Trouble is, though, that we’ve already seen her play a much more layered tormented wife than Marion before — Princess Diana on “The Crown.” Marion is a far cry from Di.
So much talent for such a non-event movie, which comes to Prime Video Nov. 4. Considering “Brokeback Mountain” was released 17 years ago, it’s odd that we’re getting a less-affecting stiff-upper-lip version now with nothing profound or enlightening to add.
I can’t speak to Bethan Roberts’ 2012 novel the film is based on, but the story’s climactic reveal is one of the most predictable in ages. It gets the award for Biggest “Duh!’