‘Jack London’s Martin Eden’ is a tale of a writer’s ambition

"Martin Eden," 2022 film by director Jay Craven. — Courtesy Kingdom County Producti

“Jack London’s Martin Eden” comes to the M.V. Film Center for one night on Friday, Sept. 2. This second version of the film was directed by Jay Craven, a Vermont filmmaker who wrote much of the script on Martha’s Vineyard, and shot it on Nantucket. Thirty-five students from a dozen colleges participated in developing and producing the film.

“Jack London’s Martin Eden” won Best Film and Best Director at the Boston Film Festival, as well as Best Narrative Film at the Arlington Film Festival. It’s an absorbing narrative for its historical accuracy, as well as its political and social commentary. The director will participate in a discussion of the film following its screening.

Of the film, Craven says, “I chose to make ‘Martin Eden’ because Jack London has always interested me, for his vivid writing, social engagement, complex humanism, and the textured emotions of his characters.”

“Jack London’s Martin Eden” is based on the 1909 novel by London, and it is the author’s most autobiographical work. The film describes the ambition of Eden (Andrew Richardson) to become a successful writer. Referencing Eden’s connection with the sea, the film begins with Eden at the shore, opening a little girl’s clam and avoiding a police officer. Soon the viewer sees Eden protecting Arthur Morse (Will Connolly) in a fist fight. When Morse takes Eden home to meet his family, Eden is captivated by Morse’s sister Ruth (Hayley Griffith).

The catch is that Eden comes from a lower-class background, while Ruth is part of a wealthy family. In contrast to their class differences, the film introduces Eden as interested in the Morse family’s books, and Ruth gives him several to take home. At first Martin, aspiring to go beyond his humble roots, asks a librarian for books on grammar and etiquette.

Before long, Eden acts on his desire to become a writer, and begins his evolution into the literary world. At the same time, he enters the era’s world of socialist politics, although Eden insists he’s not a socialist. His involvement with Ruth evolves into a full-fledged passion, and she even announces her engagement to Eden, although her parents object strenuously because of his lower-class origins.

The viewer sees Eden working at menial jobs in order to make enough money to support his writing. Like her parents, however, Ruth disapproves of Eden’s writing ambitions, and advises him to quit. Eden continues to pursue a writing career and eventually becomes successful, although he finds himself deeply conflicted with his success as well as his relationship with Ruth.

Information and tickets for “Jack London’s Martin Eden” are available at mvfilmsociety.com. For information about films playing at Edgartown Cinemas, visit entertainmentcinemas.com/locations/edgartown.