“Rialto” Offers a Queer Drama About a Man Finding Himself – Movie Review

Rialto film review queer film 2020
“Rialto” Poster – Image: PR

I’m not into sad queer films, but if they’re well-written and well-acted, I’ll give them a watch. Rialto is that kind of film. It’s bleak, but with a very good narrative with the type of messiness that felt real.

I was provided with a free digital screener of Rialto for review. The opinions I have shared are my own.

The Irish dama movie Rialto followed a 46-year-old closeted queer man named Colm (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) trying to figure out what he wanted in life. He’s been kind of happy. However, after the death of his father, it’s as if the world’s interested in him finally confronting his true self. Colm’s trying to cope with his father’s death, he’s lost his long-running job due to modernization, his son doesn’t like him, he’s distancing himself from his wife, and there’s still a lot more.

To find some kind of release, Colm decided to reach out to Jay (Tom Glynn-Carney), a 19-year-old bisexual sex worker. It’s clear Colm’s more interested in seeking the emotional comfort Jay provided instead of making their interactions solely sexual. Colm’s continuing behavior puts his heteronormative married life at risk. And again, it’s all about having to make a decision.

Written by Mark O’Hollaran, I appreciated Colm as a character. He’s not always likable, but you could understand where he’s coming from. Vaughn-Lawlor was able to show a lot of layers as a family man who’s very close to losing his past life. Colm’s timid nature worked well with Jay’s more street smart and aggressive demeanor (that’s hiding his sensitive side).

The narrative touched upon some interesting topics including toxic masculinity and abusive parents. Colm didn’t have a loving relationship with his father. Even though he’s aware of that, he still couldn’t create a healthier bond with his own son, Shane. The scene focusing on Colm and Shane’s confrontation was quite sad. Both of them said hurtful things to each other. I think the scene showed that certain people dealing with emotional pain do tend to easily hurt others.

Not only that, seeing Colm’s wife, Claire, trying and failing to reconnect with her husband was sad, too. I liked the decision she made near the end, though. She had to look out for her well-being. Good for her. Also, Colm’s father cheated on his mother, and we got to see Colm doing the same thing with Claire even though he doesn’t want to turn into his father.

At least Colm’s relationship with his daughter came across as healthy. So, maybe, down the line, he will be able to work on maintaining some kind of bond with Shane and Claire? I don’t know. The movie didn’t give any definite answers. And I think that was the point. It was supposed to showcase a character coming to a crossroads. It’s clear Colm had a lot of work to do on himself before he could move on to mending his relationship with others. 

Coming to how Rialto looked, I liked the visuals, especially the scenes at the docks where Colm worked. There were also a number of closeups that didn’t bother me because of how they were presented. Also, a lot of the scenes only had Colm interacting with one other character. Such scarcity of people helped make Rialto paint a more intimate picture of Colm’s life. I think such type of storytelling was also due to how this film was an adaptation of O’Halloran’s stageplay called Trade which, from what I understood, only focused on Colm and Jay while staying in a B&B.

As of writing this review, Rialto has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score from reviews by 17 critics. Having watched this film, I can see why.

Again, it’s not a happy queer movie, but it’s definitely one with a layered lead and is well-acted across the board.

Directed by Peter Mackie Burns, Rialto was made available on DVD and On-Demand on October 20, 2020 (from Breaking Glass Pictures).

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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