If Saturday night was Steven Spielberg’s at the Toronto Film Festival, Sunday night was almost certainly reserved for Harry Styles.
My Policeman, in which the musician stars as a closeted homosexual in 1950s England, had its world premiere at the Princess of Wales theatre, where a six-person deep crowd had already been gathering behind barriers many hours before the film had even started.
From director Michael Grandage and based on the novel by Bethan Roberts, My Policeman sees Styles play Tom, a police officer living in Brighton in the 1950s 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.
The film was warmly received by the audience, which gave it a three-minute round of applause, with crowds rising to their feet when Grandage and the cast took to the stage (many, naturally, screaming when Styles appeared).
Dressed in a dark green double-breasted suit and light green trousers, Styles spoke about the friendship he developed with his co-stars.
“Having a base of a real friendship outside of the character allowed for four months of friendship that doesn’t require much acting,” he said. “And in the most intense scenes, there was a sense of trust and safety there.”
Speaking before the screening, Grandage reflected on a moment as a 14-year-old, when a child in his school called him a “queer.”
“So I asked my father what a queer was, and he said it was a nasty term for homosexual,” he said. “I asked him what a homosexual was and he said a homosexual was a free spirit.”
The film lands just a week after Styles caused pandemonium — perhaps on a smaller scale — at the Venice Film Festival for the Olivia Wilde drama Don’t Worry Darling, where the reported — but later denied — “spit-gate” controversy with Chris Pine became arguably the biggest talking point from the premiere.
Speaking at the press conference earlier on Sunday ahead of My Policeman‘s premiere, Styles reflected on his biggest takeaway from the film’s story.
“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 said. “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.”