Rialto – a lifetime of emotional repression released


Rialto is released nationwide on the 2nd of October.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Peter Mackie Burns, Rialto, offers us a stunning and nuanced journey into repression, guilt, belonging, and identity through the complex relationship between a teenage rent boy and a father whose life is spiralling out of control. Here both men sit on the verges of society, one through hardship and the other through repression. 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 unit symbolic of a life of emotional repression.

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 a dangerous solace in alcohol. Here the growing internal crisis he faces is only exacerbated by the potential risk of redundancy.


Seeking a moment of risk and rare expression, Colm arranges a secret toilet rendezvous with a local rent boy called 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. Here the stumbling and anxiety-filled rendezvous leads Colm to leave his wallet, with the savvy young hustler seizing the opportunity to scam Colm for money.

However, what starts for Jay as an opportunistic way to make extra money soon becomes an unlikely relationship of convenience. Here their meetings morph into an exploration of masculine boundaries, emotional attachment and sexual risk as Colm pays for Jay’s honesty and support while Jay finds himself an unwitting therapist.


Based on the stage play Trade Mark O’Halloran’s screenplay offers us an intimate character-driven study of a man on the verge of emotional collapse. Here Colm’s family and work-life collide with a lifetime of repressed needs as the need for an emotional connection finds release 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 belonging and security. Here the home lives of both men are submerged in dysfunction, lies and emotional carnage. Colm screams for escape, despite a loving wife (Monica Dolan) and loving teenage kids, while Jay longs to be allowed back into the life of his girlfriend and their newborn daughter. Their resulting relationship is one of confusion, mutual support and therapy at a price, with Vaughan-Lawlor and Glynn-Carney embodying their characters’ fear, secrets and need for escape.

Rialto leaves us with the thin strand of hope that Colm may find the inner peace needed to rebuild his life. However, in reality, the tumultuous events preceding the final explosive scenes demonstrate that this process has only just begun.

Director: Peter Mackie Burns

Cast:  Tom Vaughan-LawlorTom Glynn-CarneyMonica Dolan

Ireland (2019)


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