Rialto (Review) – A lifetime of emotional containment released

Premiering at this years Venice Film Festival. Peter Mackie Burns latest film ‘Rialto’ offers a stunning and nuanced journey into emotional containment, belonging and identity. While 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 themselves symbolic of a life lived trapped in emotional seclusion.

Following on from the death of his controlling father; a man he could never please. The veil of Colm’s life begins to lift. While his strained family relationships with his son, daughter and wife are dealt with at the bottle of a can or bottle. 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 a local rent boy Jay (Tom Glynn-Carney). With the intention of finally allowing himself to experience pleasure and purpose. However, in meeting filled with fear and apprehension, the moment is lost in sea of apologies and regret. As it Colm’s wallet and personal information. And with the young hustler now in possession of the wallet. Jay seizes the opportunity to scam Colm for money, sensing the secrets the older man 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.

Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland

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)

Tom Glynn-Carney also appears in Tolkien and The King

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