sun 21/07/2024

Rialto review - beautifully acted but relentless | reviews, news & interviews

Rialto review - beautifully acted but relentless

Rialto review - beautifully acted but relentless

Irish tale of self-reckoning is rigorous to a fault

The Toms have it: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Tom Glynn Carney in 'Rialto'

What news on the rialto? Not much of particular buoyancy or light in the Peter Mackie Burns film Rialto, which takes a grimly focused view of a married Irishman's struggle with his same-sex leanings.

Adapted by Mark O'Halloran from his 2011 stage two-hander Trade, the movie is anchored by superb performances from a trio of talents who will be known to theatre devotees. Even so, the result feels a bit of a slog by the time this story of feelings too-long inheld and then released has reached its nicely open-ended conclusion: a bit more tonal variety here and there wouldn't have gone amiss. 

At first, you worry for father of two Colm (Vaughan-Lawlor), as he is himself worried when he finds himself in a public toilet clinch with a fierce-eyed teenager, Jay (Glynn Carney), whom one might be tempted to dismiss as so much rough trade. In fact, Jay has a girlfriend and a wee daughter, the second of whom Colm even meets later on once the two men have established an ongoing relationship based on money on the part of Jay and deepening affection from the emotionally poleaxed Colm.

Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as Colm in 'Rialto'"You look rough," Colm's own daughter tells him, followed not long after by a work colleague's assessment of Colm over a pint at the pub that "you look wrecked, by the way". And so Vaughan-Lawlor does, the actor (pictured above) deftly chronicling the gathering guilt and self-reproach that couldn't have come at a worse time.

Not only is Colm in a precarious position at his job down by Dublin's docks (the film takes its title from the Rialto suburb of the Irish capital's southside), but he's grappling with the death of a father whom he loathed. Indeed, Colm and Jay trade notes late on as to the legacy of paternal malignancy and the film's most powerful scene finds Colm challenging his lippy teenage son, Shane (Scott Graham), to hate his father with unbridled force. (Colm gets on far better with daughter Kerry, who is played with an appealing wryness by Sophie Jo Wasson). 

"Is something eating you?" Colm is asked as O'Halloran's script makes fairly heavy weather of a portrait of repression writ large that can't help but feel as if it's treading familiar thematic ground. It will come as scant surprise to hear that Colm before long is taking to the bottle with renewed vigour and driving his devoted wife, Claire (the wondrous Monica Dolan, the 2019 Olivier Award-winner for All About Eve here making something immediately affecting of a fairly stock role), to anger and tears. Vaughan-Lawlor cuts an ever-sympathetic figure as Colm's gait and mien grow ever more downcast, but there's only so much you can do to lend surprise to material that devolves, truth to tell, into something of a gloomfest. 

Even at its most unyielding, the film is carried along by its actors, Glynn Carney (himself an Evening Standard Theatre Award-winner for The Ferryman) bringing a bruised insolence to the part of Jay that marks this actor out  as a natural Mr Sloane as and when that Joe Orton play is next entertained. And you feel in differing ways for all the members of Colm's riven household even if it's difficult not to nod quietly in assent when Shane urges his shame-obsessed father to "fuckin' relax".


Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters