An involuntary burst of laughter escaped me as did the illicit homosexual union at the heart of my policeman reaches its hottest climax. Harry Styles as Tom Burgess, the 1950s British brass who gives the film its title, has snuck off for a few days of romantic idyll in Venice with his secret lover, urban museum curator Patrick Hazelwood, played by David Dawson like he just walked out of Brideshead revisited. Patrick is draped on a hotel bed in what seems like post-coital bliss, gazing dreamily at the sculptural curves of Tom’s buttocks as he smokes naked at the window. At this precise moment, the choir singing “Gloria” by Vivaldi explodes in a collective euphoria.
It would be nice to think it was a music supervisor’s idea of, ahem, cheeky joke, directing a hymn of glorious praise to the shapely butt of one of the most desired men on the planet. But since there are few other signs of sly humor in this overly tasteful affair, probably not. Still, it will play great on Amazon, where it will stream from November 4, following a theatrical release on October 21.
I wish I was crazy about Harry.
Styles raised his eyebrows on queer Twitter a few weeks ago when he made it clear that man-to-man sex in mainstream movies was just too aggressive, and that my policeman was there to show us some tenderness. And let’s face it, the pop star-turned-actor is the main reason everyone’s going to be interested in this pedestrian adaptation of Bethan Roberts’ 2012 novel, which does little to show that the famous director of theater Michael Grandage can translate his talents of scenic to the filter.
So how’s the sex? Screenwriter Ron Nyswaner confined the love between the characters of Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas to a chaste kiss in Jonathan Demme. philadelphia cream. Or maybe the studio dictated this prudery. Nyswaner and Grandage here let the guys get naked and sweaty, rolling around in a golden haze – lots of arched backs, hungry hands and dilated eyes in a ravishing transport – that should at least set the hearts of Styles fans racing , while remaining quite decorative. But the heavy narration and the awkward changes between the two periods of the drama mitigate the afterglow.
Roberts’ book was inspired by the long-running love affair between early 20th-century novelist EM Forster and working-class London policeman Bob Buckingham, which continued for four decades despite the happy marriage. of Buckingham with nurse May Hockey. When Forster had multiple strokes later in life, Hockey took care of him, coming to terms with the truth that the famous writer and her husband were lovers.
In this version, young Tom meets schoolteacher Marion (Emma Corrin) in Brighton Beach, and despite a friend telling him, “He likes loud, busty guys” (which should have been a gift), they begin a polite courtship. Tom wants to improve, so he asks Marion to recommend some art books, something that’s probably only ever been done at an early date by someone in a movie.
Marion takes her to the Brighton Museum, where the esthete Patrick opens her eyes to the stormy romance of a painting by Turner. Soon the trio are inseparable, with Patrick appointing himself cultural guide and taking them to the opera to soak up Verdi. Marion seems vaguely uncomfortable becoming a companion on these outings, but she’s too polite and English to say anything.
Despite no evidence of passion between them, but not for lack of trying on Marion’s part, Tom asks her to marry him. But in the meantime, he started posing for Patrick’s sketches, preferably in uniform. A glass of scotch leads to a hesitant caress, and soon the two men connect whenever they can, but not without the occasional stab of shame and self-loathing from Tom. He is “bewitched, deranged and disconcerted”, as an elemental needle drop tells us. Another helpfully says, “Memories are made of this.
Nyswaner contextualizes the period – a decade before the partial decriminalization of homosexuality in England – with a secret affair behind an underground gay club, causing panic when the cops arrive to break it up. And Patrick reveals that his companion of five years was beaten to death by thugs. But if there’s a conflict for Tom as a law enforcement officer whose co-workers congratulate each other every time they catch another “sex pervert,” Styles doesn’t have the technique as a actor to convey it.
Corrin is better, subtly revealing Marion’s unease when Patrick shows up unannounced to cook them dinner on the first day of their honeymoon at a remote cabin. She is further upset when she spots them kissing in the greenhouse, and later when Patrick arranges to take Tom on as his “assistant” on that business trip to the museum in Venice. “It’s not natural,” Marion spits at a school colleague (Maddie Rice), who quickly reveals she’s a lesbian and predicts that Tom won’t change.
From the outset, the film goes back and forth, without much elegance, between the peak of the 1950s of this awkward triangle and their difficult reunion 40 years later. The main redeeming factor here is the ever-wonderful Gina McKee as the older Marion, her natural warmth and calm, grounded qualities allowing for greater personal understanding of the character.
At first, Marion appears to be a candidate for sainthood when she moves Patrick (Rupert Everett) – physically impaired after a stroke and other life brutalities – into the couple’s home in Peacehaven, not far from Brighton, and takes charge of his care. She does this against the wishes of Tom (Linus Roache), who has lost the sparkle in his eyes from those younger years. He takes endless walks with their dog along the seaside cliffs and even refuses to enter the weakened guest’s room.
The sketchy details of the years that followed, the dramatic events that destroyed the three friends, and the motivation for Marion’s selfless act of atonement are revealed – as such things invariably are in this kind of genteel soap opera – thanks to the hands-on discovery of a stack of diaries. . McKee’s Marion tries not to read them at first, but we know that won’t last.
The script’s depiction of the differences between a time of anti-gay persecution and a time of increased visibility and acceptance is more serious than emotional. It’s because Grandage – showing not much more talent than in his boring first feature, Genius — gives so little benefit to the material. And Nyswaner’s script never digs deep into the psychology of its characters.
Right down to the wistful melodies of Steven Price’s score, the languid pacing and the pretty but bland views of the Sussex coast, it’s a respectful drama, watchable enough but unable to create much emotional charge around its exploration of the mysterious lines of love and friendship. .
McKee aside, the same goes for performance. Everett does his balancing act between imperiousness and battered dignity with reasonable aplomb, but Roache is barely there until a rushed final scene whose great wave of sentiment is as fatally restrained as everything else.
Corrin is fine, but is nowhere near capturing the inner turmoil that made their escape work as Diana on The crown so captivating. Dawson plays the airy sophistication more convincingly than the amorous man within. And as for Styles, he’s not terrible, but he leaves a hole in the film where a more multidimensional character with an inner life is most needed. Between this and don’t worry darlinghe has yet to prove himself as a true actor.