Mental health and morality issues for a legal fixer

Michael Clayton (certificate 15)
Star Rating: 4/5

Written and directed by Tony Gilroy

Showing now

George Clooney is Michael Clayton, a “fixer” in a firm of lawyers, writes Paul Lloyd. He has a “niche”, as his boss Marti (Sydney Pollack) tells him when Clayton requests a loan to pay off a gambling debt.

The “niche” in question is a conglomerate of lawyer, police officer and, I would suggest, social worker.

Clayton has duties and responsibilities that are not clearly defined – he manages “human resource problems”. His role is ambiguous, and his morality similarly ill-defined – until, that is, the dramatic dénouement.

Clayton’s main challenge ­arises when he is sent to fix the problem created for the firm when one of the partners, Adam Eden (Tom Wilkinson), who is “bi-polar”, suffers a breakdown in a multi-billion dollar case, where he is defending a corporation from a damages claim.

Clayton, in his quasi-approved social worker role, meets the lawyer, is introduced to the case and is made aware of the fact that the firm is defending the indefensible.

The plot centres on this moral dilemma, moving towards ­critical mass when Eden is ­murdered and Clayton’s own life is put in jeopardy. There are snippets of mental health law and a wonderful ironic twist when Clayton’s firm realises that its expert on “psychiatric statutes” was Eden himself.

Essentially, this is a portrayal of corporate greed and the power of money to corrupt and destroy human morality.

At one point, Clayton literally weighs up his options, with the case against the co-operation in one hand and a cheque for $80,000 in the other.

Along the way we are made aware of the dysfunctionality of Clayton’s personal and family life. The scene where he counsels his son against the fate that has beset his own brother is brief but telling.

Somewhere in here, there’s a great film about social work.

Paul Lloyd is a social worker at Cumbria Council

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