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Peter Mackie Burns

Masculinity, familial dysfunction and the very nature of love come under the microscope in this nuanced and powerfully affecting drama from the Glaswegian director Peter Mackie Burns (Daphne). Based on the stage play written by Mark O’Halloran (Adam and Paul, Garage), it centres upon an extraordinary lead performance by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor.

“…nuanced and powerfully affecting drama”

At 46, Dubliner Colm (Vaughn-Lawlor) has a comfortable life: a managerial job in the city’s docks, two healthy teenage children, and a kind, loyal wife in Claire. After the death of his father, a destructive figure, Colm’s emotional life cracks open, and his downward spiral continues when he is made redundant. Drinking heavily and unable to confide in Claire, Colm finds himself drawn to Jay (Tom Glynn-Carney), a 19-year-old who dabbles in prostitution. Their sexual encounters and tentative friendship become Colm’s only solace from the pressures he feels – but this recklessness puts his family life at risk.

That plot description might make Rialto sound like a gay love story or, at the very least, a story of a closeted man who finally embraces his sexuality. But that would be an inaccurate encapsulation of what it’s like to experience this intimate drama. Burns positions Colm’s affair as being about something more than just sex. Rialto’s delicate ambiguity concerning this relationship is touching, underlining how the broken Colm seems to be desperately seeking wholeness. Vaughan-Lawlor provides Rialto with an everyman modesty, but the character’s minute emotional fluctuations repeatedly suggest that his thin veneer of normalcy is crumbling.

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