Premiering at this year’s Venice Film Festival. Peter Mackie Burns’s latest film, ‘Rialto’, offers a stunning and nuanced journey into emotional containment, belonging, and identity. At the same time, creating an unlikely safe space in the relationship between a teenage rent boy and a father whose life is 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. Each one symbolic of a life lived trapped in emotional seclusion. The death of his controlling father; a man he could never please, only heightening his strained family relationships find solace at the bottom of a bottle of a can of alcohol. Meanwhile, the potential risk of redundancy only increases his sense of social detachment and crisis.
Seeking a moment of risk and expression, the shadow of his father now gone. Colm arranges a secret toilet rendezvous with local rent boy ‘Jay’ (Tom Glynn-Carney). Finally allowing himself a brief moment of hidden pleasure and purpose. However, the meeting is filled with fear and apprehension, the quick release of fun lost in a sea of apologies and regret. As the stumbling and anxiety-filled rendezvous leads Colm to lose his wallet and personal information. With the savvy young hustler seizing the opportunity to scam Colm for money, sensing the secrets the older man holds within.
But as the funeral of his father grows closer, and redundancy from the dockyards comes into view. The relationship between Colm and the boy he pays for emotional honesty and tentative desire grows. With Jay ultimately becoming an unwitting therapist as Colm unpicks his past and present. The secrecy of their encounters, allowing for honesty, as a lifetime of emotions explodes in 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.
Burns creates an environment where both men’s sexuality is less important than their need for male belonging and attention. The route of which lays within a financial transaction of convenience. Both Colm and Jay’s home lives equally dysfunctional due to lies and emotional suppression; one man internally screaming for escape despite a loving wife (Monica Dolan). While the other screams to be allowed into the life of his girlfriend and newborn daughter. The result for both men 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 their relationship skirts between the need for sexual release, and the requirement of unconditional companionship and love.
It is within this dynamic that Peter Mackie Burns brings his flair for directing intimate character studies. Matched with a level of nuance and openness that leaves doors open to the future for both men. Ultimately creating a snapshot of change as the veneer of one man’s life peels away from the emotional reality. Rialto’s final scene 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.
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 has only just begun to play out in Colm’s future.
Director Peter Mackie Burns
Cast: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Tom Glynn-Carney, Monica Dolan
Rialto is currently showing at this years BFI London Film Festival