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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Rialto ****

Starring: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Tom Glynn-Carney, Monica Dolan, Sophie Jo Wasson

Director: Peter Mackie Burns

Country: Ireland

Colm (Vaughan-Lawlor – The Avengers Franchise) is a middle-aged married man, who has just lost his father and his job. When he encounters Jay (Glynn-Carney – Dunkirk, Tolkien), an antagonistic sex worker, in a public toilet, he is torn between the awakening lust within him and his cautiousness around such a capricious young man. But as his relationship with his wife (Dolan), son and mother all deteriorate around him, he begins to realise that the only truly genuine person in his life is this impulsive but honest rentboy.

Like Pretty Woman on the Dublic docks, this is the latest in a slew of movies about sex workers with hearts of gold. Tom Glynn-Carney is magnetic as Jay, who is flighty, mischievous but carrying a great weight on his shoulders. Through his encounters with Colm, we learn about his motives for selling himself, with his girlfriend withholding access to his baby. In one scene, he tells of the first time he was paid for his services, aged just fourteen. It’s compelling to hear, but Jay is unapologetic with his trade, willingly participating in transactions that help him financially. Playing out against the bleak backdrop of Rialto, an inner suburb of Dublin, this is harsh hyper-realism that is heading firmly away from the "happily-ever-after" of this sub-genre's fluffy archetype.

Tom Vaughan-Lawlor makes for a fascinating lead, whose gradual descent into full self-destruction makes for a mesmeric decline-and-fall. The film is leaden with nuance, delighting in its regular ambiguity, but it also dares to be boldly blunt, especially in a later scene with his son.

Underpinning it all is a sumptuous score from Valentin Hadjadj, of which Bernard Hermann would be proud, imbuing the film with a Hitchcockian malcontentment. Except this isn’t a thriller, at least not in the macro-sense. But for Colm, this is a micro-thriller, occurring entirely within. And for that, its ambitious score is entirely appropriate.

UK Release: Out Now to watch On Demand on Now TV, Sky Go and to buy on DVD, released by The Bureau Films


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