Rialto (Review) – A lifetime of emotional containment released

Premiering at this years Venice Film Festival, Peter Mackie Burns (Daphne) brings us a stunning and nuanced journey into emotional containment, belonging and identity. Rialto creating an unlikely safe space in the relationship between a teenage rent boy and a father whose life in spiralling out of control.

Colm (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) has spent his life working the docks of Dublin, his very existence ground into the fabric of the containers he cares for. The containers a symbol of a life lived trapped in emotional seclusion.

Following on from the recent death of his controlling father; a man he could never please. The veil of Colm’s life begins to lift. His strained family relationships with his son, daughter and wife; his use of alcohol as an escape from his day to day existence and the potential risk of redundancy combining to exacerbate his mid life crisis. Seeking expression and risk, the shadow of his father now gone, Colm arranges a toilet rendezvous with a local rent boy Jay (Tom Glynn-Carney). A meeting filled with fear and apprehension that ultimately leads to Colm loosing his wallet. The young hustler now in possession of Colm’s work address, family address and personal information. His opportunity to scam Colm ripe for the taking, sensing the secrets Colm holds within.

As the funeral of his father grows closer, and his redundancy from the dock yards comes into view. The relationship between Colm and the boy he pays for emotional honesty and tentative desire grows. Jay ultimately becoming an unwitting therapist as Colm unpicks his past and present. The secrecy of their encounters allowing honesty as a lifetime of emotional containment explodes into a sea of risk.

Based on his stage play ‘Trade’ Mark O’Halloran’s screenplay delivers an intimate character study of a man on the verge of emotional and social collapse. His family and work life colliding with the suppressed needs of a life lived in the shadow of others. His need for escape and emotional connection finally finding a voice with a teenage hustler.

Both men’s sexuality is less important than the need for male belonging and attention. The emotional openness of both men distilled into a financial transaction in its advancement. Both Colm and Jay’s home lives equally dysfunctional due to lies and emotional surpression. Colm internally screaming for escape despite a loving wife (Monica Dolan). While Jay screams to be allowed in to the life of his girlfriend and new born daughter.

The result for both men is a confused relationship of mutual support at a price. Both Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Tom Glynn-Carney embodying the fear, secrets and need for belonging inherent in the characters they portray. While the interface between Jay and Colm skirts the need for sexual release against the greater need for unconditional male companionship and love.

Peter Mackie Burns brings his flair for directing intimate character studies, matched with a nuanced delivery that never seeks to answer every question raised. Rialto provides a snapshot of the veneer of a mans life peeling away from the inner emotional reality. The films final scenes never seeking to conclude the journey started, as secrets are aired between Colm and his own son. Their father/son relationship changed forever in a whirlwind of anger. While the financial reality of Colm’s relationship with Jay leads both men to separate from their therapeutic relationship of confusion.

Rialto leaves its audience hoping that Colm finds the inner peace needed to rebuild his life. However, in reality it is clear that the turmoil of the events proceeding the films final scenes have only just begun to play out in Colm’s future.

Director Peter Mackie Burns

Cast: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Tom Glynn-Carney, Monica Dolan

Ireland (2019)

Rialto is showing at the BFI London Film Festival 2019 from Saturday 5th October

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