It may have been less than a week since Harry Styles was in Venice to talk about Don’t Worry Darling (and to, as he later joked, “spit on Chris Pine”), but Sunday saw the musician and rising film star sit down in Toronto to discuss an altogether different — but just as buzzy — project in which he has a leading role.  

My Policeman, from director Michael Grandage and bowing at TIFF on Sunday night, sees Styles play Tom, a police officer in 1950s England who develops feelings for museum curator Patrick (David Dawson). While the two keep their relationship a secret due to the repressive laws of the time, Tom marries local schoolteacher Marion (Emma Corrin), whose jealousy would have destructive consequences. Shifting to the 1990s, the three (played by Linus Roache, Rupert Everett and Gina McKee, respectively) are still reeling with regret but seek to repair the damage done 40 years earlier.

Interestingly, for someone clearly squeezing both pop megastardom and a growing film career into their limited schedule, one of the biggest takeaways for Styles about the film was how it touched on the concept of people not making the most of their lives.

“For me, the reason why the story is so devastating is that, ultimately, the whole story is about wasted time, and I think wasted time is the most devastating thing,” he told a press conference a few hours ahead of My Policeman’s world premiere.

“Because it’s the one thing we cannot control,” he continued. “It’s the one thing you can’t have back. And I think the one thing that I think matters — whatever kind of life you’ve lived — at the end when you think back on time with people you love.”

Styles added that the themes of the film — “love and freedom and the search for those things” — were “incredibly timeless,” saying that he was drawn to the fact that people could see a part of themselves in each of the characters.

“I think the most beautiful thing about the story is that all of the characters have some really nice qualities, and they also have some flaws that we might hope not to have but, as humans, we all have them,” he said. “And I think, at different points in the story, you’re able to see bits of yourself and sometimes maybe not your favorite parts of yourself in different characters. And I think that’s why it kind of resonated with me so much.”

Speaking earlier to The Hollywood Reporter, director Grandage said that he thought Styles, like himself, was drawn to the “political aspect” of My Policeman’s story. As a gay man who was born in the times it depicted, the theatre director, making his second stint behind the camera with the film, said that it had an unfortunate poignancy in today’s world, with the gains made since the 1950s now in danger. 

“For the very first time in my lifetime, I think it’s fragile again. And I think this will alert people, hopefully even educate people and certainly remind people, that if you let it be fragile and let it go backwards, this is where you get to. You get to a place where people cannot be themselves and cannot be free.”

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