My Policeman | Directed by Michael Grandage | Written by Ron Nyswaner from the novel by Bethan Roberts | 113 min
I sometimes feel like French cinema has perfected the melodrama, so nobody else should attempt it. I felt that way with My Policeman, an aggressively average attempt at melodrama with a queer twist. Pop star and fashionista of the moment, Harry Styles, is Tom, a copper in 1957 Brighton who’s been having an affair with museum curator, Patrick (David Dawson), while Tom is also trying to build a life with sweet, clueless Marion (Emma Corrin, who played Diana Spencer as sweet and clueless in The Crown). In the 1990s Tom and Marion (Linus Roache and Gina McKee) are still together, with Marion caring for an ailing Patrick (Rupert Everett), and old resentments bubble up.
While I had some time for the performances and the heat between Styles and Dawson, this is just another anachronistic gay people suffering story that feels entirely out of place in 2022. But if you wanna watch Styles get naked and make out with other actors, this is the movie for you.
Living | Directed by Oliver Hermanus | Written by Kazuo Ishiguro, from a film by Akira Kurosawa | 104 min
This is a remake of the Kurosawa picture Ikiru, which I haven’t seen, and with the drama shifted to London of the 1950s. Williams (Bill Nighy) is a Public Works manager who inspires fear and respect in his subordinates, including Wakeling (Alex Sharp) and Margaret Harris (Aimee Lou Wood). When Williams finds he has a terminal illness, he starts to reassess the purpose of his life and gets to know Miss Harris better, someone whose joi de vivre he admires. Aside from Nighy, who brings a wonderful gentleness to his performance, the MVPs here are composer Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch and director of photography Jamie Ramsey, whose work wraps the film like a warm hug. It’s an elegiac story of passion overcoming bureaucracy, with Ishiguro’s script delivering a structural twist late in the running, allowing each of the supporting cast a moment to address the mysteries of Williams’ final act. A beautiful film.
The Whale | Directed by Darren Aronofsky | Written by Samuel D Hunter, from his play | 117 min
It’s hard not to think of The Wrestler when watching this movie, how Aronofsky’s film gave the role of a lifetime and a second chance in Hollywood to faded star Mickey Rourke.
The filmmaker does it again here for Brendan Fraser, who’s been out of the limelight for years. He’s Charlie, a shut-in living with morbid obesity and facing cardiac arrest, but refusing help from anyone but his friend, Liz (Hong Chau), a nurse. Charlie is desperate to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Ellie (Sadie Sink, of Stranger Things fame), while a bible-thumping kid (Ty Simpkins) keeps knocking on the door of his apartment in an attempt to save his eternal soul.
While I admire the notes of horror Aronofsky plays in all his work, daring you to look away, the theatrical roots of this material have it hamstrung with the entire picture stuck in a single location — a stagey trope that I find difficult to shake off. I also will be interested in what disability activists may have to say about the film, but there’s no denying what Fraser has accomplished in this role. The make-up and prosthetics are next level, and his raw emotion never for a second feels forced or fake.
The Whale is an empathy generator, if the roaring TIFF audience at its conclusion is anything to go by, giving Fraser and the whole cast a sustained standing-o.