An involuntary sniff of laughter escaped me like the illegal gay union at the heart of my police officer reached its most scorching peak. Harry Styles as Tom Burgess, the 1950s British buyer who gives the film its title, has slipped away for a romantic idyll of a few days in Venice with his secret lover, the urban museum curator Patrick Hazelwood, played by David Dawson as if he had just from Brideshead Revisited. Patrick is draped over a hotel bed in what appears to be post-coital bliss, dreaming of the sculptural curves of Tom’s buttocks as he smokes naked in front of the window. Just then, the choir singing Vivaldi’s “Gloria” explodes into collective euphoria.
It would be nice to think this was a music overseer’s idea to direct, ahem, a cheeky joke, a hymn of glorious praise to the curvaceous ass of one of the most desirable men on Earth. But since there are few other signs of sly humor in this all too tasteful affair, probably not. Still, it will play just fine on Amazon, where it will be streamed from November 4, after an October 21 theatrical performance.
my police officer
It comes down to
I wish I was wild with Harry.
Styles raised eyebrows on queer Twitter a few weeks ago by saying outright that male-on-male sex in mainstream movies was completely too aggressive, and that my police officer was here to show us some tenderness. And let’s face it, the pop star-turned-actor is the main reason everyone will be interested in this pedestrian adaptation of Bethan Roberts’ 2012 novel, which shows little of the celebrated theater director Michael Grandage’s ability to translate his stage skills to the screen. .
So how’s the sex? Screenwriter Ron Nyswaner famously limited the love between the characters of Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas to a chaste cock in Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia. Or maybe the studio dictated that prudishness. Nyswaner and Grandage had the boys here getting naked and sweaty, rolling around in a golden haze – many arched backs, hungry hands and eyes widened in rapture – which should at least make the hearts of Styles fans beat, albeit while being reasonably stay decent. But stodgy storytelling and awkward shifts between the drama’s two time periods dim the afterglow.
Roberts’ book is inspired by the long-standing love affair between early 20th-century novelist EM Forster and working-class London police officer Bob Buckingham, which continued for four decades despite Buckingham being happily married to nurse May Hockey. When Forster suffered multiple strokes later in life, Hockey took care of him and accepted the truth that the famous writer and her husband were lovers.
In this version, young Tom meets schoolteacher Marion (Emma Corrin) on Brighton Beach, and despite a friend telling him “He likes loud, busty types” (which should have been a giveaway), they begin a polite courtship. Tom wants to improve himself, so he asks Marion to recommend some art books, something that was probably only done on an early date by someone in a movie.
Marion takes him to the Brighton Museum, where esthete Patrick opens their eyes to the stormy romance of a Turner painting. Soon the trio are inseparable, with Patrick appointing himself as a cultural guide and taking them to the opera to soak up some Verdi. Marion seems vaguely uncomfortable about being the tagalong 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 effort on Marion’s part, Tom asks her to marry him. But in the meantime he has started posing for Patrick’s sketches, preferably in uniform. A glass of whiskey leads to a tentative caress, and soon the two men make contact whenever they can, but not without an occasional twinge of shame and self-loathing from Tom. He’s “Bewitched, Tricky and Bewildered,” as an elemental needle drop tells us. Another helpfully says, “This is where memories are made.”
Nyswaner contextualizes the period – a decade prior to the partial decriminalization of homosexuality in England – with a slum contact behind an underground gay club, sparking panic when the police arrive to break it up. And Patrick reveals that his five-year-old partner has been beaten to death by thugs. But if there’s a conflict for Tom as a law enforcement officer whose co-workers pat themselves on the shoulder when they catch another “sexual pervert,” Styles as an actor lacks the technique to get it across.
Corrin is better and subtly reveals Marion’s unease when Patrick shows up unannounced to cook for them on Day 1 of their honeymoon in a remote cottage. She is even more confused when she sees them hugging in the greenhouse, and later when Patrick manages to take Tom as his ‘assistant’ on that museum business trip to Venice. “It’s unnatural,” Marion spits at a school colleague (Maddie Rice), who promptly reveals that she’s a lesbian and predicts that Tom won’t change.
From the start, the film jumps, without much elegance, between the heyday of this uneasy triangle in the 1950s and their arduous reunion 40 years later. The main redeeming factor here is the ever-great Gina McKee as the elder Marion, her natural warmth and calm, grounded qualities that allow for greater personal insight into the character.
At first, Marion seems like a candidate for sainthood when she brings Patrick (Rupert Everett) – physically diminished after a stroke and other atrocities of life – to the couple’s home in Peacehaven, not far from Brighton, and takes care of him. . She does this against the wishes of Tom (Linus Roache), who has lost the sparkle in his eyes from those early years. He takes endless walks with their dog along the seaside cliffs and refuses even to enter the weakened guest’s room.
The sketchy details of the intervening years, the dramatic events that confused the three friends, and the motivation for Marion’s selfless reconciliation are revealed – as always in this sort of genteel soap – by the easy discovery of a stack of diaries. McKee’s Marion tries not to read them at first, but we know it won’t be long.
The script’s portrayal of the differences between a time of anti-gay persecution and a time of increased visibility and acceptance is more serious than poignant. That’s because Grandage – who didn’t show much more flair than in his bland first feature, Genius — gives the material so little head start. And Nyswaner’s script never digs deep into the psychology of his characters.
Down to the melancholic melodies of Steven Price’s score, the languid tempo and the beautiful but dull views of the Sussex coast, it’s a respectful drama, watchable enough but unable to build much emotional charge around its exploration of the mysterious lines of love and friendship .
Aside from McKee, the same goes for the performances. Everett does his practiced balancing act of imperiousness and battered dignity with reasonable confidence, but Roache is barely there until a rushed final scene whose great wave of feeling is as deadly subdued as anything else.
Corrin is fine, but doesn’t come close to capturing the inner turmoil that made their breakout work as Diana on The crown so compelling. Dawson plays the light-hearted refined more convincingly than the man in love within. And as for Styles, he’s not terrible, but he leaves a hole in the movie where a more multidimensional character with an inner life is most needed. Between this and don’t worry babyhe has yet to prove himself as a real actor.