My cop (2022)
Director: Michael Grandage
Screenwriter: Ron Nyswaner
Starring: Emma Corrin, Gina McKee, Harry Styles, Linus Roache, David Dawson, Rupert Everett
After Harry Styles’ bad performance in Don’t worry honeyfans were nervous about her return to the big screen in Michael Grandage’s LGBTQ+ period drama, My cop. The good news for Styles fans? It’s not terrible. The bad news? The film is so unobtrusive that it says almost nothing.
Based on the 2012 novel of the same name by Bethan Roberts, My cop explores a complicated love triangle between a school teacher, a museum curator and a policeman. Set in quaint but highly conservative 1957 Brighton, UK, Tom (Harry Styles) meets Marion (Emma Corrin), a traditional woman working at a school. The two quickly begin a relationship that is confused by Tom’s close relationship with museum curator Patrick (David Dawson). Patrick becomes entangled in the couple’s lives and the three of them must struggle with sexuality, guilt and jealousy.
Though My cop wants us to believe that Patrick and Tom’s relationship is worth their many sacrifices, we don’t see much of that. There’s a before to the relationship and a tragic after, but hardly anything in between. Other than a sporadic trip to Rome and a drunken encounter when the two meet for the first time, most of the film deals with the strained friendships between the three central figures. Dawson and Styles deliver performances that are believable enough, but they don’t make up for the stiff dialogue and lack of chemistry. Slow burns undoubtedly have their place in the romance genre, but My cop the central romance diminishes instead of burning. More concerned with the repercussions of queerness in the 1950s, the film makes no room for the actual relationship between its gay characters.
One of the most anticipated aspects of the film were the sex scenes. Earlier this year, Harry Styles said Rolling stone that “a lot of gay sex in movies is just between two guys hitting on”. Forget the fact that Styles is an international pop star, this comment made sex a hyper-focus. People wondered if Styles had seen queer cinema or if she could really portray a gay tender love seen. The scenes were low-key and didn’t feel garish or over the top, but they certainly didn’t transcend “two guys hitting on.” Compared to other queer movies like Portrait of a lady on fire or also Call me by your name, my cop he didn’t feel particularly revolutionary. Not every queer film has to break new ground for the LGBTQ+ community, but there is a certain expectation when one of the stars calls out to all other films in the genre.
It is essential to dissect the political act of centering a cop in this strange story. Although the film portrays acts of violence at the hands of the police, Tom is still a sympathetic and kind character. There was an attempt to understand the layers of oppression within these three relationships, but the film didn’t seem to know what he was working with. At every point where it verges on politics, the film takes a sharp narrative turn. It’s not directly harmful to the community, but the writing could have taken a more definitive stance on the social world in which he lives.
More than a political or community discussion, My cop it is a quiet and meditative space about self-acceptance and repression. This is reflected in the narrative time shifts between the equally subdued 1950s and 1990s. We see Tom, Patrick and Marion (now played by Linus Roache, Rupert Everett and Gina McKee respectively) deal with the consequences of their pasts in this later timeline. Patrick suffered a stroke, and Marion took him in faithfully (if reluctantly). The older cast gives a solid performance, but ultimately not even this storyline comes to fruition. Marion (who takes center stage in this timeline) isn’t three-dimensional enough to function as a solid protagonist. While we pity her sometimes, she doesn’t have a leg to stand on without her relationship with Tom.
That said, Tom and Marion’s relationship is probably the most fleshed out of the three in the previous timeline. As a married couple, the two love each other, though not in the traditional sense of the term. It’s fascinating to see the pair struggle to be good to each other while living their truths. Styles has Tom’s boyish charisma and innocence, but not Tom’s quiet, bubbling anger. He doesn’t spoil the film in any way, but he strives to provide the high-intensity emotional climaxes necessary for the story. Important moments are often undermined by erratic performances and stilted dialogue.
My cop the ambitious storytelling is admirable but fundamentally fails as a character study and political piece for the queer community. If nothing else, My cop it’s a chance to watch good actors work with a mediocre script: Harry Styles (originally the wild card on the project) gave a good performance while the rest of the cast excelled. As disappointing as the film is, it’s exciting to see queer films enter the mainstream in such a big way. If something, My cop indicates a growing acceptance of LGBTQ+ relationships on screen. As the LGBTQ+ film collection expands, the community dialogue will continue to take place at the cinema, and that is something to be thankful for.
Written by Emi Grant
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