Rialto is director Peter Mackie Burns and writer Mark O’Halloran’s screen adaptation of O’Halloran’s play Trade. It screened at the Dublin International Film Festival earlier this year and is set to go on limited release from October 2nd.
The brilliant Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (most recognisable as Nidge from Love/Hate) stars as Colm, a Dubliner in his mid-40s who begins to unravel following the death of his father and the loss of his job. Struggling to connect with his loving wife and a son who wants nothing to do with him while also dealing with his clearly repressed homosexuality, Colm seeks solace with a young male prostitute Jay (Tom Glynn-Carney).
Drinking heavily as he becomes increasingly distanced from his family, it soon becomes clear that Colm may be unable to pull himself back from the brink.
This is a bleak, moving study of the devastating effects of loss, alienation and masculinity in crisis. A lifetime of repressing his feelings and true nature have left Colm unable to confide in those closest to him, and his admitted hatred of his late father and attitude towards his grieving mother suggest that some unspoken terrors may have befallen him in his family home in Rialto. Vaughan-Lawlor is superb in the lead, giving a powerful but measured turn as a man in dire need of, but unable to accept, a shoulder to lean on. British actor Glynn-Carney also leaves an impression as the cocky, but more vulnerable than he lets on Jay – and he delivers a pretty good Dublin accent to boot.
The female characters are less well served, despite strong performances from the likes of Monica Dolan and Deirdre Donnelly. This is mostly forgivable given the subject matter, but one can’t help but feel that a larger part for Colm’s wife Claire (Dolan), at least, would have benefited the story.
The cinematography is also a highlight, as Adam Scarth’s minimalist framing of the city works wonders in evoking Colm’s sense of isolation.
Fittingly, there are no easy answers or fixes here, but the ambiguous conclusion may offer a glimmer of hope, even if some come away feeling a bit frustrated.
Rialto is not always an easy watch, but it is a rewarding one and is well worth seeking out.