⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Run time: 1 hour 53 minutes
Stars: Harry Styles, Emma Corrin, David Dawson, Gina McKee, Linus Roache, Rupert Everett
Writer: Ron Nyswaner (based on Bethan Roberts’ novel)
Director: Michael Grandage
Reviewed at the Toronto International Film Festival
A story of forbidden love in 1950s England, My Policeman is a romantic potboiler of the first rank; what people used to call a “Women’s Picture” because, supposedly, only women like movies that are unabashedly sentimental and, truth be told, a tad manipulative when it comes to turning on the waterworks.
Well, I liked Mildred Pierce. I liked All That Heaven Allows. And I like My Policeman, lushly photographed, epic in scope, populated by six supremely appealing actors — and calibrated to break your heart like a bad boyfriend.
You couldn’t ask for much more than that in a weepie, but director Michael Grandage — who managed to wring tears from the story of legendary magazine editor Max Perkins in 2016’s Genius — renders this period melodrama in often unexpected and always welcome ways.
At first it appears that My Policeman is going to simply rehash what has become something of a trope in big-screen romances in recent years: We meet the characters, old and regretful — played by established veteran actors — who, soon enough, recall their youthful exploits in the form of sepia-toned flashbacks populated by much younger stars who wrestle and sweat together in ways only the young and restless can.
Call me cynical, but even the best of these films — The Notebook comes to mind — seem a tad exploitative, aimed mostly at finding a way to draw both young and older audiences into a theater.
But aside from the fact that My Policeman goes to narrative places few of those old tear-jerkers did, the film also manages to pay nearly equal attention to both generations, resulting in a welcome sense that we are witnessing both the prequel and the sequel simultaneously.
Here we first meet the older crew: There’s Marion (British TV star Gina McKee), married to Tom (Homeland’s Linus Roache) — unhappily so, partly because she has just taken in their mutual old friend Patrick (Rupert Everett) . Well, “old friend” may be understating things a bit because, as we’ll soon learn, these three have a pretty intense history together.
Said history unfolds in extended flashback: Young Marion (Emma Corrin, who played Princess Diana on The Crown) falls hard for Tom, a dimpled and dreamy Brighton police officer (actor/singer Harry Styles who, I’m told, is the biggest star on the planet). Things are going swimmingly for the pair until Tom has a chance encounter with a gaunt, haunted-looking art museum curator (British TV star David Dawson) who, much to Tom’s surprise, turns out to be just his cup of tea.
Here’s a little movie critic insider secret: We all check out each other’s reviews, curious to see how our opinions stack up against the others’. Early reviews for My Policeman after its Toronto International Film Festival premiere made one thing quite clear: Lots of people really, really hate Harry Styles. I mean, they just can’t stand him. Perhaps I’m at a disadvantage from having been generally unaware of his existence prior to this, but it appears the man’s history as a boy band singer (One Direction) and magazine coverboy (wearing some kind of a dress on Vogue) has rendered him ineligible for acceptance as a movie actor. But I’ve got to say I very much like Styles in My Policeman; he reminds me of a young Matt Damon.
Six lead actors is a lot for any movie, but in My Policeman each member of the cast stakes out his or her territory admirably. There are betrayals and confrontations aplenty, and the audience is put in the uncomfortably fun position of not really knowing for whom to root.
Pretty much everyone’s sad — and really, that’s also pretty much the point.
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