I had the pleasure of interviewing the director of “Rialto”, Peter Mackie Burns, after watching the film. Before I share his answers to questions and insights from our chat, I’ll share with you a bit about the movie and how its unexpected journey of responsibility resonates from start to finish. (Free of spoilers, of course).
When we’re first brought into the world of “Rialto,” we know nothing about the main character or where the story might go. Within the first five minutes of the film however, we see Colm is struggling somehow in life. He’s dealing with some form of strain at work, a few moments later a call from home shows him feeling bogged down and drained in his family life, followed by a visit from a friend at work who asks Colm to “hang out” but Colm calmly denies the opportunity to be social. These first few scenes of the movie bring us passed the surface aspects of his life and thrust us deep into his worry and anxiety.
Where most films begin or end in an obvious turning point in life “Rialto” puts viewers into the middle of life’s daunting gray area, a place many of us try to avoid. In watching Colm’s choices, you might find yourself examining or re-examining some of your own. You might even feel helpless with Colm as he weaves between the lanes of hopelessness and being hopeful in attempts to differentiate between the past and future while struggling to keep himself afloat in his present. “Rialto” is a film about an ordinary man, in his ordinary life, and what happens when extraordinary uncertainty falls into his lap.
“Rialto” shows us all how we, as ordinary people, define what our life is with every choice we make. Whether we like it or not.
After watching the film, I needed to take a few hours to just sit and process Colm’s struggles. I needed to find my way back to myself after having watched another human-being struggle so much knowing there was nothing I could do at any point to help him out of it.
“Peter, there were so many points where I found myself wanting to help the main character. Where I just wanted him to be okay. He’s in such a hard time a majority of the film, and yet still rewarded with glimpses of hope; and he doesn’t know who he is in those good hopeful moments. It definitely caught me off guard. The whole film actually, from start to finish.”
“I’ve been told that a lot by a few people.”
- What is it you hope to have people take away when they watch Rialto?
“…I’d hope that they’d empathized with a man who made continuous ill-informed and bad decisions…to still maintain some form of understanding and empathy for someone who behaves, in a sense, abominably. The second takeaway is, towards the end of the movie without giving anything away, I hope that they see the character is ready to face up to the consequences of his actions.”
- What was the most difficult part of shooting, do you think?
“…I don’t know…Getting through the material and hatting the right emotional moments. Finding the performance, keeping it fresh, shooting it and trying to transcend the scene…The American Greek director Cassavetes said, ‘If I know how a scene is going to end, I don’t see a point in shooting the scene…’ So I suppose the difficult thing is, or was, shooting a scene and trying to keep that level of spontaneity throughout the shoot. That was the difficult thing.”
- Do you have a favorite scene from the movie, or scenes?
“…I think because you spend nine months in the editing process, then you see the film in a way that spoils it for a few years…it becomes exaggerated and distorted…I do remember enjoying though, the look and the atmosphere of a tiny scene in the movie when Colm’s daughter comes down into the garden and chats with him. It’s a very very small scene…he’s smoking a cigarette and she walks over behind him and surprises him. She says, ‘Are you hiding?..’ And he turns around and looks at her. I think it’s a beautiful interaction. I remember I shot it at a few different angles and things but I definitely knew when I was shooting it I got it in one take from one angle…It’s an interesting little scene because, if you watch the movie, if you’re really paying attention, his daughter comes out to him in that scene… It’s a very subtle moment but if you watch the film at that moment and mind, it changes. It changes the dynamic of their relationship… It’s a dad and daughter moment and it’s really nice…”
“Rialto” is truly an amazing film, solely for the fact that it lets the audience know the importance of showing empathy and kindness for someone you may not know at all. It’s not only well directed, but well written and acted throughout. Having the opportunity to talk with Peter about his experience directing, and the joy he brought to the set off camera to help make filming easier on everyone, the depth and feeling of “Rialto” becomes newly defined. This movie will pry and pull at every bit of the audience’s heart through and through.
Peter was also behind the camera for a film called, “Daphne.” A dramatic comedy about a young woman who is forced to make choices to change after she helps a shop owner who is the victim of a robbery. When I asked if Peter had any new projects we should keep a lookout for, he didn’t give any names but he did admit, “I’m working on two scripts with two different writers right now…and the next movie I’ll get to direct is whichever one gets funding first. Given the current state of the world, who knows when that might be.” Let’s all hope it’s soon.
My personal take away from “Rialto” is: no matter the circumstance, no matter how well or terribly we choose to handle what life throws our way, one thing will always be true: Hope, is our responsibility.
Thank you again Peter, for your time.
The only place I was able to find where “Rialto” is available for viewing in the U.S. is on IMBD with a sign in of your choosing.
Update! “Rialto” is available on Amazon as of today, October 20th. “Daphne” can be found on Amazon as well.