Rialto – Interview with writer Mark O’Halloran

‘Rialto’ is a new Irish movie, written by Mark O’Halloran (Adam & Paul, Garage). It is set in contemporary Dublin and explores the life of the quiet family man Colm. On the surface, everything is good. Colm has a devoted wife and teenage children. But when he finds himself unable to cope with the grief of losing his father, his long-term job falls into jeopardy, and he’s unexpectedly drawn to a violent rent boy, his whole life is thrown upside down. Movies.ie caught up with mark to discuss the bleakly beautiful ‘Rialto’ and how it came to be on the big screen.

Rialto started life as a stage play, Trade. What was the biggest challenge you faced adapting a stage play for the big screen?
Well I think you have to reimagine the story for another medium. The play was quite short, so it needed to be expanded out. And also in the film it becomes Colm’s story, whereas in the play the narrative was shared. I think there is also a change of language has to happen. A certain lyricism is needed in the theatre that just doesn’t work on film, so it had to change too. It felt like a translation.

The main character, Colm, is a man of few words whose emotional life is laid bare over the course of the film. Why is Colm’s story important to you?
I like to think how it is that men experience loneliness. I wrote about it in Garage and I guess that Rialto is a continuation of that. I was also interested in looking at what it feels like if you are a failure as a parent and as a man, and how you can save yourself in that circumstance.

The film is not overtly political but does explore some themes that are reminiscent of the recession. Do you think it’s important to reflect social change in contemporary cinema?
I think that social change and emotional change are linked in many ways. Certainly there is profound social change in how men live and work. I think that was important to the story of Colm.

A large part of the film’s drama comes from the chemistry between Colm (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) and Jay (Tom Glynn-Carney). What made each of those actors the right man for the job?
They are both extraordinary. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor has intelligence, commitment and talent. He is hard working and courageous and I was delighted to have him in the film. Tom Glynn-Carney came and read for us and his audition was the best I have ever seen. He is truthful and edgy and his accent work alone is spectacular. Their chemistry together was a joy to behold.

Monica Dolan is perfectly cast as Claire, Colm’s wife. How important is her role to the overall heart of the story?
Her role is vital. I want to show that Colm was loved and supported if only he could open his eyes. I also wanted to show how difficult it is for a person to love someone who is profoundly lost.

As with a lot of films, the release of Rialto was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Was it frustrating to see the film delayed because of events you couldn’t control?
It was a bit frustrating – but in the great scheme of things it is a trivial upset really.

Do you think the pandemic will have long-lasting effects on the Irish film industry, or will we be back to business as usual?
That is yet to be seen. I had a short script filmed last week, which shows that life in the industry is returning. Time will tell.

Can we expect Rialto to be seen worldwide or at upcoming film festivals?
It is being released in lots of jurisdictions. The US in the autumn/winter, Australia as well, and Europe to follow.

How important is LGBTQ+ representation in contemporary film?
It is important for all groups to record and to document their stories.

Now that you’ve got a new cat, Delia, to look after, will you be taking a break from writing and acting, or do you have more plans for the future?
I’m not taking a break. Lots of writing work, including the new Sally Rooney adaptation that I’m writing episodes for. I’m also adapting a John Boyne novel for American TV and doing a bit of acting on UK TV – that begins in September. So I’m keeping busy. I have to keep Delia in the luxury she craves.


Words: Jarlath Gregory


RIALTO is at Irish cinemas from October 2nd