Rialto Film Review starring Tom Vaughan-Lawlor

Directed by: Peter Mackie Burn

Written by: Mark O’Halloran

Starring: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Tom Glynn-Carney, Monica Dolan, Sophie Jo Wasson, Scott Graham and Michael Smiley

Dubliner Colm (Vaughan-Lawlor) is on a downward spiral. His father, with whom he shared a tempestuous relationship has recently passed away. He has been told that the job he held in Dublin’s docklands doesn’t exist anymore, after more than 30 years of service. In between, a salacious encounter with a young man in a shopping centre bathroom has awakened his homosexual desires. 

Home life with his wife and two kids is marred by his seeming inability to open up to anyone. He has been living a lie for so many years and is in too deep. His alcohol misuse is hinted at from the start. Uncommunicative, the audience is left to assume that his long-suffering wife, Claire (Dolan), attributes his emotional distance down to being brought up by a domineering father. Does she know that his problems run deeper? It is certainly suggested on the face of Monica Dolan whose subtle yet layered performance is one of the best aspects of the film.

However, this is a study of Colm’s character, more so than a relationship drama. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor puts on a little weight and hunches over, appearing to be swallowed up by whatever environment he is in. Peter Mackie Burns and his DP Adam Scarth frequently return to a tracking shot of Colm walking down the docklands, dwarfed by the containers on either side. This is where Colm is supposed to be most comfortable. 

Colm tries to find meaning in a relationship with a street hustler Jay (Gylann-Carney). Their encounter in the toilets at the beginning of the film graduates to meet-ups in a yellow-hued B’n’B. Colm slugs cans of cheap Polish lager and Jay pretends to be interested in his problems, taking pity on a man whose lies have led him to only leading half a life. 

Rialto is a grim film, that is for sure, but it is in no way exploitative. You can tell from his heartfelt script that Mark O’Halloran really cares for his characters. In front of the camera, Vaughan-Lawlor gives a physical performance which constantly hints a deeper trauma within Colm. Director Mackie Burns takes a realist approach allowing the nuances of O’Halloran’s script (which he adapted from his own play) to breathe.

Colm is a middle-aged man who is lost. While men of similar age and socio-economic backgrounds as this character may not have the exact same problems, the film speaks to issues of middle-aged trauma that is not only relatable in an Irish sense, but universally.