A fresh-faced figure who became acquainted with the extortionate human cost of war, in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk on a grand cinematic canvas. Tom Glynn-Carney bears witness to a far different kind of loss closer to home, in this emotionally charged two-hander from Daphne director Peter Mackie Burns, originally birthed on the stage by scriptwriter Mark O’Halloran.

A swaggering bleach blonde who illuminates the dark grubby corners of its Dublin setting, Glynn-Carney’s striking protagonist is a world away from the broken empty shell of the dishevelled man he’s about to encounter.

Painting a compelling portrait of a mid-life crisis that is brimming with depth and texture, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor’s Colm is having many a door slammed in his face as he begrudgingly navigates his forties. Spending almost a lifetime working the docks with the threat of a merger creating a wealth of uncertainty, the heavy machinery that imposes itself in such a working environment is a worthy visual metaphor, for the emotional lifting he just can’t bring himself to do back at home. Reeling from a sudden familial tragedy.

He certainly doesn’t allow the strong concern of his wife Claire (Monica Dolan) to be converted in order to rebuild his wellbeing, with displays of affection at a premium. Considerable distance lies between him and his two children too, with particularly rampant emasculation courtesy of his teenage son Shane (Scott Graham) only aggravating the hurt that clogs his heart. For all his reluctance, the only door he craves to open is the cubicle where Glynn Carney’s hustling Jay awaits in their volatile initial meet. At surface level, a transaction that could easily be written off as a stench of sex and desperation. But in the simmering shared complexity of their respective lives. There’s something far more tangible and meaningful being craved in these exchanges…

Where it’s all too commonplace to rush to demonise sex workers and those who seek out such services. The understated safe space that Peter Mackie Burns creates is a breath of bracing fresh air, filling its interiors with a deep sense of compassion. Far less concerned with labelling their sexuality and declaring either character as some sort of deviant. Truly invested in grasping the clear motives that have led them down this path, which has seen them both feel less of a man through unfortunate circumstance.

The mere idea of sex quickly fades into the background as their frank honesty begins to dominate the frame, bringing vivid colour to their initially grey backstories. Away from the perhaps deliberately dimly lit confines of Colm’s office, into the beaming natural light that pierces the window separating the two beds in a room himself and Jay consistently find themselves in. It’s all too apparent that they are almost resigned to themselves being shrouded in darkness, made as well as feeling redundant and only real connection lying in this arrangement.

Whether it’s scaling the steps of a crane, seeking a high vantage point away from the troubled world around him. Or dipping his toes in shallow water to resemble the lack of meaning in his life. The unassuming, thoughtful demeanour that ultimately overrides all the troubles faced by Colm, is testament to the outstanding work of Tom Vaughan-Lawlor here. The vulnerability on display is in stark contrast to the carefree business-like mentality of Tom Glynn Carney’s superbly realised Jay, with his cocksure arrogance occasionally offering semblances of true feeling, giving Colm a slither of hope they can find a welcome middle ground.

The final flourishes of Peter Mackie Burns’ latest may be too abrupt for some. But it does little to diminish the fact ‘Rialto’ is an excellent examination of masculinity and human connection, boasting an emotional tour-de-force from its two accomplished leads.

Rating: ★★★★½

Directed by: Peter Mackie Burns

Written by: Mark O’Halloran

Cast: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Tom Glynn-Carney, Monica Dolan