Toronto 2022 Dispatch: My Policeman & A Man of Reason
Michael Grandage’s My Policeman comes to Toronto with plenty of buzz, much of it centered around star Harry Styles, who, as one of the most famous pop stars in the world, has had himself quite an…eventful…festival season already given his contributions to Olivia Wilde’s forthcoming Don’t Worry Darling. However, I’m not sure Styles’ admirers or detractors are going to find much to say about his latest work, either positive or negative. Adapted by Ron Nyswaner from the novel by Bethan Roberts, My Policeman is staged handsomely enough but mostly falls flat in the telling of a story that — though admirable and at times moving — doesn’t fully manage to do justice to the characters it sketches in the initial going. Split between two time periods, decades apart, the film follows Tom, Patrick, and Marion, three people enveloped in a sea of love deemed immoral and punishable by 1950s Britain. Most of our time is spent here, with the younger versions played by Styles, David Dawson, and Emma Corin, respectively, but one exits the film wishing that more attention had been paid to the lives of these three as they exist in the current world. Primarily used as a framing device in somewhat muddled fashion, veteran actors Linus Roach, Rupert Everett, and Gina McKee make the most of the less meaty and at times more heavy-handed material — this is especially true of Roach, who is given perhaps the least to do but by whom I felt the most impacted by the end. There’s a sense that a true division of the substance could have elevated the film towards a more rewarding exploration of the material, but as it stands the result feels oddly lifeless despite clearly committed work by all involved.
South Korean star Jung Woo-sung (also at TIFF 2022 as an actor in Lee Jung-jae's Hunt) pulls double duty as director and lead in his feature directorial debut A Man of Reason, but his move behind the camera proves much less successful than his previous endeavors. Co-written with Jung Hae-sin, the turgid and interminable film aims to be a melancholy thriller about the nature and toll of violence, but mostly comes across as a vastly watered down version of Tony Scott's Man on Fire. Frustratingly, the film seems to take the wrong step at almost every turn: well-choreographed action is edited to death or obscured in shadow, performances are bizarrely and inconsistently pitched, music choices are hilariously baffling (the opening section of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know" is used four separate times as a recurring motif), and the emotional stakes are manipulated in such a heavy-handed manner that we find it hard to care at all. Though Jung's skill as an actor and as a screen presence is apparent, the script gives him almost nothing to work with, in fact often pairing him with scene partners whose performances feel akin to acts of sabotage. It's hard to say whose feet to lay the blame at in that instance, but the outcome is the same regardless: a film that unfortunately just can't get out of its own way.