MY POLICEMAN. Classic melodrama starring Harry Styles (unfortunately)
Are you familiar with the phrase “the story is better than the movie itself”? It’s often used in reviews of movies that had potential, but for various reasons didn’t live up to it. Michael Grandage’s My Policeman, Amazon Prime Video’s latest original film, fits this definition perfectly – it’s an interesting, stirring story that is torpedoed primarily by Harry Styles’ absolutely abysmal “performance.”
When in The Room Johnny (the now iconic Tommy Wiseau) shouts: “You are tearing me apart, Lisa!”, the audience laugh, because they see an absolute of bad acting. If at this point you said to yourself, “No, Harry Styles can’t be that awful,” you’re right – the former member of the group One Direction can do a little more, but he’s also not that far from the acting bottom again. I haven’t yet had a chance to watch Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry, Darling but negative reviews of Styles’ performance quickly circulated the world, and My Policeman also did not in any way encourage me to catch up with it soon – if anything, it effectively discouraged me from doing so.
Harry “once a member of a super-popular boy band and now a solo singer trying to pursue an acting career” Styles is undoubtedly a talented guy – he sells out major concert arenas, he’s photogenic and media-savvy, but two films this year have confirmed that acting is not his thing. As the titular policeman caught up in a love triangle, he can’t carry the emotional depth that the story carries. And the dramatic potential here is immense – here, an infirm Patrick Hazlewood (Rupert Everett) is brought to the home of Marion (Gina McKee) and Tom (Linus Roache) Burgess, with whom the two apparently share a rather strong relationship. Through numerous flashbacks, which make up roughly half of My Policeman‘s metric, we learn how the three of them met and became close, and since the thing takes place in the late 1950s, the moral dimension of this “relationship” is of utmost importance here, especially since one of the men is a law enforcer, the other a representative of education and science.
Michael Grandage does his best to tell the story subtly, but both he and Styles lack subtlety completely. The thing takes place in Brighton, making the director succumb to the obvious temptation to reflect the characters’ moods with the behavior of the sea and the waves. So when, shortly after Patrick’s arrival, Tom goes for a walk on the beach with his dog, the agitated water looks as if it wants to invade Mr. and Mrs. Burgess’s house, while when Marion finally achieves calm, the size of the waves reflects her inner balance. It’s a gimmick so obvious that it stings – after all, it’s easier to weave a few shots of raging waves into the narrative than to work out real emotional depth with the actors, right? And while we’re talking about the cast, it must be said that Marion, Tom and Patrick are definitely more convincing in their older roles – Emma Corrin, known for her role as Diana Spencer in The Crown, tries her best, but her character is completely flat; I won’t dwell on Styles anymore, while David Dawson in the role of Patrick comes off superbly – he has something of Tom Hiddleston’s elegance and mystery about him, and his feelings are perfectly expressed in his gestures and glances.
My Policeman is a film that is difficult to evaluate unequivocally – it is neither a success nor a failure, despite some shortcomings in the creation of characters, as it probably achieves the overriding goal of evoking emotion in the viewer. Michael Grandage’s film is a classic melodrama, which, with a little better performance and greater skills of the leading actor (and let’s not kid ourselves – the one who is supposed to be a “magnet” for viewers) could become a truly gripping, powerfully resonant story. In the meantime, it becomes simply one more voice talking about how difficult the lives of those who loved differently used to be.