Entertainment

Harry Styles tells TIFF audience that LGBTQ drama My Policeman is 'timeless'

Harry Styles has been making headlines for another movie — but on Sunday, the pop singer was in Toronto for My Policeman, a historical drama about a gay man’s strained relationship with his wife and secret lover in mid-20th century Britain.

Styles attended a press conference on Sunday but kept red carpet appearance short

Harry Styles speaks onstage at the My Policeman press conference during the Toronto International Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Sept. 11, 2022. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Harry Styles has been making headlines for another movie — but on Sunday, the pop singer was in Toronto for My Policeman, a historical drama about a gay man's strained relationship with his wife and secret lover in mid-20th century Britain.

Speaking at a TIFF press conference hosted by Twitter, Styles said he was drawn to the film because it uses two timelines (one in the 1950s and another in the 1990s) to explore enduring themes.

"The general themes are incredibly timeless. I think that's why the film works so well," Styles said. "I think the themes of love and freedom and the kind of search for that is incredibly relevant, whatever time you were to set it in."

Along with the pop singer-turned-actor, My Policeman stars British actors Emma Corrin and David Dawson as Marion and Patrick, respectively. 

Styles plays Tom, a policeman who marries schoolteacher Marion while continuing a secret relationship with museum curator Patrick, during an era in which homosexuality was illegal in Britain. 

Ahead of its world premiere at TIFF, director Michael Grandage shared that My Policeman reflects his own experience growing up in an unaccepting society. 

"I was born into the England that is represented at the start of this film," the 60-year-old director and playwright said. "As a gay man, that meant a great deal, obviously, because in the last 60 years, we've made an incredible change to what it was like then — the law was changed in 1967."

The filmmaker said that prejudice against same-sex relationships continued for a decade past its decriminalization in England, and that current attitudes are very different from the ones represented in the film.

"Although, for the first time in my life, I think that is a little fragile at the moment and that is part of what drew me to this film," he added.

Emma Corrin, a non-binary actor known for playing Princess Diana in The Crown, said that the film was a relatable portrait of the complexity and nuance of youth. 

"I really like the joy they find amongst themselves as a trio and the joy in that friendship … that's something we spoke about a lot in rehearsal," they said. "And obviously, that juxtaposed with the tragedy in the end and everything that they go through — I liked that there were those two sides of that."

Gay relationships 'shrouded in fear,' during 1950s Britain, Styles said

Styles attends the My Policeman premiere during the Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre on Sept. 11, 2022. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Styles, who rarely addresses his relationships and sexuality in public, has been scrutinized by some fans who accuse him of benefitting from the LGBTQ community without directly aligning himself with it.

In response, Styles told Rolling Stone magazine last month that, while he may be photographed with a partner, he has never chosen to publicly be in a relationship with anyone, regardless of gender.

The actor-singer, who did not take interviews on My Policeman's Sunday night red carpet but posed for photos, said that he imagines his character's feelings for other men would feel "foreign" during a time when such sentiments were often kept hush.

With "sexual relationships being shrouded in fear for a man in that time, for Tom for example, and fear and shame and all of those things … you don't necessarily know that much about if you don't encounter other homosexual men at that time."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jenna Benchetrit is a web journalist for CBC News. Based in Toronto and born in Montreal, she holds a master's degree in journalism from Ryerson University. Reach her at jenna.benchetrit@cbc.ca or on Twitter @jennabenchetrit.

With files from Eli Glasner

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