My Policeman

Harry Styles may be a great pop singer, but he is not a particularly good actor. Hot on the heels of his weak performance in Don't Worry Darling comes a starring turn in My Policeman, a dull movie made even duller by his onscreen blandness. Maybe the Bethan Roberts novel is better than the film made from it. Hopefully it is, because Ron Nyswaner's screenplay is a series of clichés strung together. There's even a shot where a character puts their hand out the window of a moving car and makes waves to let us know they're being pensive. That's a small one. Much bigger ones are found all the way through.

The movie opens with a framing device. Marion (Gina McKee) has brought sickly Patrick (Rupert Everett) home to care for him, to the dismay of husband Tom (Linus Roache). It's unclear why Tom objects so strongly, until Marion begins flipping through an old journal. We then flash back to the 1950s. Tom (Styles) is a new policeman who meets and weds Marion (Emma Corrin). They have a mutual friend, Patrick (David Dawson), who is secretly gay. He and Tom have dalliances behind Marion's back. Aside from the fact that he's married, Tom has to be careful, as homosexual activity is illegal and his career could be ruined if his colleagues find out.

You've read that description. If I told you that My Policeman hits every predictable beat imaginable, you could almost certainly guess what happens. There would be no need to see the movie. You'd have the entire story in your head. Brokeback Mountain, Carol, Ammonite, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire have all dealt with secret gay relationships in time periods where homosexuality was either not commonly accepted or against the law – and all of them did it way better. My Policeman simply recycles elements from those pictures, just without the depth or emotion.

Even though it's cribbing from better films, the lack of juice here is perplexing. No new spin is put on any of it, and the characters are so one-dimensional that they quickly become boring. We're supposed to believe that Tom is tormented by his infidelity and secret life, yet Styles never shows that. He does most of his scenes with a blank stare on his face, failing to make us feel his anguish. Corrin has a similar issue. We're asked to believe that Marion is devastated to learn about her husband's sexual attraction to Patrick, but her pain is treated with soap opera-level depth. Not once do we ache for this woman.

Dawson fares the worst, although it's not his fault. Patrick doesn't get to be an actual person. He's perpetually a “function,” here solely to awaken Tom's hidden feelings, provoke Marion's jealousy, and get badly beaten in order to symbolize the poor treatment gay people have long faced. His job is to spur the other characters' arcs or convey the story's themes, rather than to exist in his own right. It's a regressive portrait of a gay man, putting him in a position where he must serve all the straight people in the movie.

Director Michael Grandage stages everything in a slow, detached style that prevents us from getting drawn in. Even the sex scenes between Tom and Patrick are so sedate that they don't provide a spark. With other movies covering similar material in a superior manner, no real reason exists to bother with the disappointing My Policeman.

out of four

My Policeman is rated R for sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 53 minutes.