VOD film review: Rialto
Ivan Radford | On 02, Oct 2020
Director: Peter Mackie Burns
Cast: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Tom Glynn-Carney, Michael Smiley, Monica Dolan
Watch Rialto online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW / Curzon Home Cinema
Sometimes, the person it’s easiest to be honest with is a stranger. That’s the paradoxical yet universal truth at the heart of Rialto, a breathtakingly delicate drama that picks apart one man’s unassuming existence, even as it crumbles all on its own.
Colm (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) is a married man with two teenaged kids. His life is thrown into disarray when his father passes away, but the reality is that a darker shadow has been growing over him for some time; Colm isn’t grieving a relationship he had with his old man but rather one he didn’t have, and the suspicion that his bond with his own son is equally unhealthy is just one part of the puzzle that’s eating away at him.
Colm has been working at the docks for his whole life, perpetually on the edge of stable land in an environment where heavy loads are locked up in boxes and happily shipped away to somewhere else. When his job becomes uncertain on top of everything else, Colm finds an unlikely place to ferry his own burdens: into the arms of Jay (Tom Glynn-Carney), a young man on the cusp of his twenties, who propositions Colm in a toilet, before blackmailing him about their tryst after.
That might sound like a familiar drama about a man coming to terms with his sexuality, but Rialto has a groove all its own – a quiet song of loneliness and depression that’s accompanied by a bewitching score from Valentin Hadjadj, which gracefully crescendoes towards resolution while a stormy darkness relentlessly swirls beneath.
Daphne director Peter Mackie Burns has an impeccable command of tone throughout this low-key tale, rooting it in tiny details: Colm is constantly framed trapped between walls and doorways, or leaving him positioned to the edge of the frame – adrift, even in his own story. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor is heart-achingly good in the lead, delivering a natural performance that’s so understated every tiny conflict and obstacle in his life becomes visibly overwhelming. Unrecognisable from his recent scene-stealing turn in Avengers: Infinity War, it’s a turn that confirms him as an actor of raw, honest power; even the way he wears a jumper sags with downbeat sincerity.
He’s matched by the excellent Tom Glynn-Carney (who also impressed in Netflix’s The King), who manages to make Jay intimidating yet sympathetic and far more complex than his appearance would suggest. Both are believably broken, complementing each other in a way that almost brings a completeness to each.
Adapted by Mark O’Halloran from his own play, Trade, the script ensures the nature of Colm and Jay’s relationship remains ambiguous, as both men have their own families to look after, dwelling not on the physical intimacy between them but rather asking what’s missing for each that they need to find it somewhere else.
That’s the question haunting Colm’s wife, Claire (the superb Monica Dolan), who can see her husband growing more distant by the day. In a life of lies, where only a stranger can provide solace and a place for honesty, Rialto ponders a profoundly human question: can an estranged family ever become so detached that telling the truth is possible once again? This engrossing domestic tragedy is small in scale, but packs a big emotional wallop.
Rialto is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of an £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription.