6th October 2019 12.45pm at
10th October 2019 6.20pm at BFI Southbank (NFT)
A series of bad days transform into a stagnant life for Colm in Rialto. Director Peter Mackie Burns took Mark O’Holloran’s play Trade as the basis for this gentle portrait of a 40-something man at a crossroads. The film picks up in the wake of his father’s death in Rialto, Ireland, tracking his worsening relationship troubles, which seem to lie everywhere and anywhere. Not only do the quiet aches in the protagonist’s family continue to strain, but also his new feelings for an 18-year-old sex worker are muddled into the crisis. As a result, the feature never tightens its grip on what is actually haunting Colm; instead, he and the audience are left in more or less the same spot as when they met. The picture’s central focus is broad and remains that way. Even though the cracks in the character’s life continue to splinter, they are never acutely clarified.
Nestled within the scenes is a film about unrequited love. It presents the possibility of Rialto becoming a two-hander about a sex-worker and his latest client coming to terms with his sexuality and blurring the line between a sexual transaction and love. Unfortunately, it never arrives.
Scenes feel like tragic vignettes rather than stepping stones towards any type of resolution. There is so much drama popping up that when a new plot revelation arrises it fails to create its intended impact. Consequently, there is a heavy reliance on the emotional orchestral score to elevate the quotidian struggles of the family man. The strength of the film lies in Adam Scarth’s cinematography. Colm is introduced dwarfed by the docks on which he works. The recurring image of looming machinery and cargo containers overwhelming him lingers in the day-to-day battles he faces.
When you think about it, Rialto follows a lot of the same plot points as American Beauty, but without any sense of humour. And if you take the sense of humour out of American Beauty, it’s not exactly a fun trip to willingly hop on board for.
Rialto does not have a UK release date yet.
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For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.