A Week In The Life Of Martin Cluxton

A Week In The Life Of Martin Cluxton was directed by Brian MacLochlainn in 1971 and received its television premiere on RTÉ during December of that year. It’s a gritty and accompolished attempt at social realism which proved that we could make urban drama to the same high standard as our British counterparts. And just as downbeat too – as illustrated by John Kavanagh’s well-meaning cleric.

“This is a decaying area. Unemployment is high and the people as a result suffer immense depression. Martin Cluxton is a direct product of this environment. His problems are threefold. They are medical, environment and spiritual.”

We start with a rural scene; a group of boys walking over Galway hills with a Christian Brother in charge. We quickly learn that they are juvenile offenders and that Martin Cluxton (played by Derek King) is one of them. Two key devices are employed by the directors to drive the narrative and provide background and explanations – breaking the fourth wall (by adults) and voiceovers (by Martin). The direct addresses to the camera are made by the religious authority figures (who explain that their resources are wholly inadequate – “we are no substitute for skilled social workers”) and Mrs Cluxton explaining the difficulty that is raising children in relative poverty. On the other hand Martin’s stream of consciousness is more plaintive and demonstrates the hopelessness of his situation.

“Everybody seemed to have something to do or somewhere to go. Except me.”

The premise of the film is simple – it deals with a week in the life of a youth released from the reformatory and back to his inner city Dublin home. The cast includes a number of familiar names including Bill Foley and Laurie Morton as Martin’s parents. Virgina Cole (who starred with Morton in Fortycoats and Co.) plays his sister Chrissie while Going Strong stalwart Ann O’Dwyer is the glamorous neighbour Mrs Boyle. Fair City‘s Jim Bartley stars as the tearaway Cronin (an older sidekick of Martin’s). Hope is in short supply and as the story progresses we gradually learn that the future is going to be just as bleak and aimless as the past was.

Martin wants to become a mechanic. In a key scene he has an impromptu interview with garage owner McGreevey who appears to be reasonably disposed to him until he learns of Martin’s address in Corporation Avenue. After he leaves the businessman then berates his secretary for not checking the applicant’s background in advance. Curiously the radio in McGreevey’s office features a broadcast about socialism. This theme is further expanded in the pub scenes with Mr Cluxton engaging in dialogue with a revolutionary bar-stooler about the class struggle.

“Babies don’t get bit by rats in Foxrock.”

As the film progresses our sympathy for Martin’s plight increases. His interactions with others – family, friends, social workers, priests, brothers, unemployment officials and the man on Dollymount beach – cement his status as a teenager without hope. By the closing scenes he has made a decision. One is left with the strong impression that it was inevitable.

“You’d like to do something. Anything. It didn’t matter what. Just anything.”

A Week In The Life Of Martin Cluxton picked up its fair share of criticial acclaim upon release.
– Press Award for Best Overall Programme, Prague International Television Festival, 1972.
– Best Overall Programme, Hollywood World of Television Festival, 1972
– RAI Prize, Turin International Television Festival, 1972

It also features a beautiful jazz soundtrack courtesy of Louis Stewart.

Brian MacLochlainn went on to direct Time Now Mr T., The Spike (with Noel O Briain) and The Burke Enigma.

(by nlgbbbblth)

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11 thoughts on “A Week In The Life Of Martin Cluxton

  1. Oliver Farry says:

    Great stuff this. I never knew about A Week in the Life of Martin Cluxton but I did remember the furore over The Spike (not at the time but the residual controversy lingered for many years). Amazed it’s been put up on YouTube.

  2. fústar says:

    Derek King as Martin kind of calls to mind John Moulder-Brown in (Jerzy Skolimowski’s) Deep End (made the previous year). Not quite as…er…androgynously beautiful, but they’re inhabiting the same universe.

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Thanks Helena. It was through reading your book – Irish Television Drama – back in the early 1990s that I first learned about A Week In The Life Of Martin Cluxton. So belated thanks for that. It’s still an excellent reference point. Just a pity that so many of the dramas discussed in it languish unseen and unrepeated in the archives. RTÉ’s neglect of same is a shame. For the 40 year celebrations there was a tantalising documentary broadcast that showed clips from many of these films / plays. I think you were interviewed in it too. I must upload it at some point. .

  3. I was lucky enough to see an archive screening of this in the IFI. Great film with a whole extra dimension watching it post States of Fear.

  4. Ed Butler says:

    Amazing to see this again for the first time since the night it went out – some great shots of Dublin from unusual perspectives. I seem to remember that the “bad language” in the programme caused a furore at the time – nowadays anyone can swear like a trooper on.”The Late Late Show” & “Podge and Rodge” and nobody bats an eyelid!

  5. denismcgrath says:

    i went to school with Derek and remember this movie well and have just revisited it tonight and nothing has changed in forty years all the problems then are the problems of to day this brings back so much of my childhood as i was brought up in Clontarf and remember all the Summers we spent walking across the wooden bridge and sitting on the Benches looking out on Dublin Bay Such a shame that we lost this Beautiful innocence to corruption and greed I have shared this on my Facebook page for every one to view this as this has so much relevance to day as it did back in 71 when will we ever learn i ask myself thanks for trip down memory lane to a fantastic childhood growing up in Clontarf Regards Denis

    • nlgbbbblth says:

      Thanks very much for your comment Denis. You are so right – we don’t seem to learn from the past. I’m glad I was able to bring back good memories for you. All the best.

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