Rialto – Film Review
by P McGovern
Writer: Mark O’Halloran
Stars: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Tom Glynn-Carney, Monica Dolan
In the sea of recent overhyped movies, propped up by the reputation of fashionable directors, relying on dramatic special effects and mega budgets, Rialto upholds the values of fine writing (Mark O’Halloran), great acting and sure-handed direction.
Set mainly in Dublin’s docklands and south inner-city, the film has several interwoven thematic strands. The ruthlessness of big corporations, coating the reality of redundancy in management speak, is beautifully acted by Alexandra Smith as the PR gloss person and Eileen Walsh as Paula from HR, the iron fist in the velvet glove. The extremes to which poverty (especially when allied to a deep sense of responsibility towards family) can lead young men, is handled with great subtlety in Tom Glynn-Carney’s totally convincing performance as Jay, turning our initial impressions of a lowlife scumbag on their head. The main theme, if such exists, may be the search by men for a father’s affection and respect and, in turn, their own attempts to connect with their sons.
Where the frustration of that search for ‘normal’ father-son relationships may lead, in terms of both physical and mental danger, is what drives the tension to the very end. If poet Philip Larkin’s “they fuck you up” springs to mind about this parental perennial, the blaming of fathers is diluted by his subsequent “but they were fucked up in their turn…man hands on misery to man…”.
The plot centres on Tom Vaughan-Lawlor’s Colm, a forty-something year old working in a docklands company since he was seventeen, now in an apparently stable managerial position, married with a family and living in comfortable suburbia. He thinks of his recently deceased father but he doesn’t miss him: “he was a cunt”, mirroring nineteen-year-old Jay’s sentiment about his own feckless father. Colm’s relationship with his own teenage son (Scott Graham’s Shane) is fractious and frustrating – for both. It leads Colm to wonder whether if he can’t have a real father-son relationship, he could perhaps buy one. The relationship that develops, while initially a mere transaction, develops into something much more. A ‘rent boy’ capable of real tenderness, with the potential to be a loving parent to his own newborn? Yes, but perhaps his efforts at fatherhood will be thwarted too; the omens aren’t great.
The fragility of what seems a stable family life is powerfully evoked in quiet performances of Monica Dolan as Colm’s wife, Claire, an empathetic, patient and uncomprehending wife and as their daughter, Kerrie, played with warmth and lightness of touch by Sophie Jo Wasson. While the movie copperfastens Vaughan-Lawlor’s standing as one of Ireland’s most outstanding and versatile actors, in fact, it is enhanced by nuanced acting all round.
Plot developments arise naturally and spontaneously from the central action, a welcome break from the litany of improbabilities of recent biggies such as 1917… From the opening shots of bumping, grinding machines and containers to the final moment of inspired ambiguity, Peter Mackie Burns’s direction in tight, taut and economical. The movie is not always easy watching; it is superbly disturbing. In fact, it is superb, full stop.
Rialto is produced by Alan Maher and John Wallace (Cowtown Pictures) and Tristan Goligher and Valentina Brazzini (The Bureau), with the backing of Screen Ireland.