Film Review: RIALTO (directed by Peter Mackie Burns)

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by Barry Creyton on September 6, 2020

in Film


Two standout movies in this year’s Frameline Festival contemplate, each in its own way, men suffering mid-life crises.

One is the terrific The Goddess of Fortune from Italy (review here). The other, from Ireland, is Rialto. Based on Mark O’Halloran’s play Trade, and directed by Peter Mackie Burns, this perfectly paced and beautifully directed film details the domestic tragedy of a middle-aged man struggling with his attraction to a teenage rent boy.

Colm is a Dublin dock worker, married with two teenage children. He’s approached by a young hustler, Jay, whom he pays for the most modest favors. Colm’s inability to cope with his same-sex attraction might seem at odds with 21st century sensibilities, but this is an ordinary man of working class background in a mindless job, his monotonous existence marked by an indifferent wife, a son who offers him no respect, and a daughter who tries in vain to understand him.

Colm is played with heartbreaking sensitivity by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Avengers: Endgame); Tom Glynn-Carney (Dunkirk) is Jay, the rent boy, equally moving as the layers of street toughness are peeled back to reveal a heart.

Eventually, the two find a kind of camaraderie, but Jay is in the game solely to support his girlfriend and their baby. Colm’s breakdown is hastened when he’s made redundant from his job of thirty years. His wife, unable to understand or to cope with his depression, leaves him. He confesses his passion for the rent boy to his son who rejects him violently. Colm descends into a kind of no-man’s-land of mere existence from which he will likely never escape. An indication of his fate is his excessively apologetic nature, frequently uttering “I’m sorry” when apology is needless or unasked.

Burns and Cinematographer Adam Scarth impose no agenda, but present characters and story with Chekovian objectivity. High, wide shots of Colm, insignificant and solitary on the docks, tell us all we need to know. There is no solution to his dilemma, and none is offered in this intensely moving story.

In spite of Valentin Hadjadj’s droning score which describes neither character nor sentiment, this is a subtly realistic movie which remains with the viewer long after the final credits.

stills courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures

Rialto (Риалто)
Breaking Glass Pictures
in wide release October 2, 2020
Ireland/UK | 90 min | color

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