The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - RIALTO | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - RIALTO

rialto review
As his world unravels around him, a fortysomething Dubliner seeks comfort in the company of a teenage gigolo.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Peter Mackie Burns

Starring: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Tom Glynn-Carney, Monica Dolan, Michael Smiley, Eileen Walsh

rialto poster

Director Peter Mackie Burns' remarkable feature debut, Daphne, focussed on a twentysomething London woman who wallows in sex, drugs and alcohol in the aftermath of witnessing a traumatic incident. For his sophomore feature, Rialto, Burns remains in similar territory, though this time the drama centres around a fortysomething Dublin man as screenwriter Mark O'Halloran adapts his own stage play 'Trade'.

rialto review

Tom Vaughan-Lawlor is Colm, a 46-year-old who has until recently led a comfortable if unassuming life. He's worked his way up the ladder of the Dublin dockyards to a cosy senior office job, and he lives in a pleasant house in a middle class suburb with his devoted wife Claire (Monica Dolan) and teenage kids Kerry (Sophie Jo Wasson) and Shane (Scott Graham). Colm's well-tendered life begins to unravel in the weeks following his father's death. One evening after work he follows a teenage boy into the bathroom of a shopping mall. The boy is Jay (Tom Glynn-Carney), a gigolo who subjects Colm to an intimidating ordeal in a cubicle before making off with his wallet.

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Things get really messy for Colm when Jay turns up at his office demanding €200 not to visit Colm's family and reveal the details of their bathroom encounter. Colm is initially terrified, but he's also glad to see Jay, whom he hasn't been able to shake off his mind. Along with the requested fee, Colm pays Jay to masturbate in his car for his viewing pleasure, the first of several transactions as Jay spends more and more time in the young man's company, growing increasingly estranged from his wife in the process (he neglects to break the news of his impending redundancy to Claire).

rialto review

In his first substantial lead role, Vaughan-Lawlor is quietly formidable. Like the anti-heroine of Burns' previous film, Colm is a protagonist we can sympathise with, but Burns, O'Halloran and Vaughan-Lawlor make him hard to like. His treatment of Claire is quite contemptible, disappearing in the middle of the night to spend time with Jay or wallow in his self-misery on the local seafront without leaving so much as a note. Yet thanks to Vaughan-Lawlor's tragic demeanour, not to mention the societal shunning Colm would likely receive were he to be honest, it's difficult for us to pour too much scorn upon him. Parallels emerge with Colm's late father, who we hear tore his own family apart through an affair, and it seems history is set to repeat itself.

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Though the film strikes a sombre chord throughout, Colm's interactions with Jay often have the nervous energy of cringe comedy, as the older man is uncomfortably awkward in the presence of the streetwise youngster. Colm believes he's falling in love with Jay, but the latter is strictly gay for pay, working as a gigolo to raise the infant he fathered with his equally young girlfriend. There are moments when we feel like shouting at Colm to prevent him from saying or doing something unwise. His own worst enemy, he's like a panto villain constantly creeping up behind himself.

rialto review

Burns' filmmaking veers between intimate close-ups when Colm is in the company of Jay, and patient wide shots when Colm is alone and immersed in his thoughts. In the latter moments the camera appears to be holding back as though not to disturb him, like an unsure guest at a funeral. The filmmaking is so intimate in parts that it makes us feel uncomfortable, as though we're intruding on someone's private affairs - Colm's late confrontation with his son is particularly difficult to watch. When Rialto ends on an ambiguous note, we know there's more drama and discomfort to come, but so human has Colm become for us at that point that for Burns' to capture it would be akin to making a snuff film.

Rialto is in UK/ROI cinemas from October 2nd.

2020 movie reviews