Peter Mackie Burns’ latest film, ‘Rialto’, offers a stunning and nuanced journey into emotional containment, belonging, and identity. While 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. With both men sitting on the precipice of society, one through necessity, and one through a need for inner peace.
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 steel-clad unit, symbolic of a life lived trapped in emotional seclusion.
Following the death of his controlling father; a man he could never please, Colm’s sense of detachment and insecurity only heightens. The strain on his family life, building as he finds fleeting solace in alcohol. The swelling, internal crisis he faces, only exacerbated by the potential risk of redundancy.
Seeking a moment of risk and rare 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 hormonal energy lost in a sea of apologies and regret: the stumbling and anxiety-filled rendezvous of both men leading 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.
However, what may start as an opportunistic way to make extra money for Jay, soon becomes an unlikely relationship of convenience for both men. Their meetings morph into an exploration of masculine boundaries, emotional attachment and sexual risk. With Colm paying for Jay’s honesty and support, as his confidence and desire slowly grow. While, at the same time, Jay finds himself an unwitting therapist to a man whose past and present reside in a container of unspoken regret. The secrecy of their encounters, allowing for honesty, as a lifetime of emotions 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 a lifetime of suppressed needs. The urgent requirement for emotional connection, finding safety in the arms of a teenage hustler.
Burns creates an environment where the sexuality of Jay and Colm is less important than their need for male belonging and attention. The home lives of both men submerged in dysfunction, lies and emotional suppression. With Colm screaming for escape, despite a loving wife (Monica Dolan) and caring teenage kids. While in contrast, Jay longs to be allowed back into the life of his girlfriend and their newborn daughter. The resulting relationship between both men, is one of confusion, mutual support and therapy at a price. With Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Tom Glynn-Carney embodying the fear, secrets and need for belonging inherent in the characters they portray. In a relationship that skirts between the need for sexual release, and the requirement for unconditional companionship and love.
Rialto leaves its audience, with a hope that Colm may find the inner peace needed to rebuild his life. However, in reality, the turmoil of the events preceding the final explosive scenes of the film has more than likely only just begun to play out in Colm’s future.
Director: Peter Mackie Burns
Rialto is released nationwide on Friday 2nd October