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2012 | 105 min | R | 1.85:1



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Theatrical release date

 22 March, 2013
 19 July, 2013

Country of origin

 United States



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Eden Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, March 21, 2013

I don’t discount the importance of the message contained within “Eden.” Taking a look at the elaborate system involved in human trafficking, the feature is noble in its efforts to depict the horrors of prostitution and the psychological void of its victims. However, it’s not a very comprehensive picture, brushing by salient points of submission to achieve a conventional arc of consciousness punctuated with violence. There should be more to chew on with a story as horrific as this, yet writer/director Megan Griffiths isn’t interested in the crucial details of decay, robbing the film of necessary motivations and a lasting welt of reality.

An 18-year-old Korean-American girl working in her parents’ shop, Hyun Jae (Jamie Chung) sneaks into a bar with her pal one night to blow off some steam and flirt with guys. When one of the patrons (Scott Mechlowicz) takes a shine to the teenager, Hyun Jae is thrilled, accepting a ride home with the stranger. The evening takes a nightmarish turn when the girl is kidnapped and taken to a remote facility for juvenile prostitutes, rechristened “Eden” and put up for sale. At first frightened and defiant, Eden, under threat of bodily harm, soon becomes part of the routine, intimidated into duty by heroin-smoking thug Vaughn (Matt O’Leary). While Sheriff Gault (Beau Bridges) rules the organization with an iron fist, Eden begins to cozy up to Vaughn, revealing her intellect to the frazzled enforcer, proving her worth while wiggling out of her sex role. Gaining Vaughn’s trust, Eden soon discovers the extent of the Sheriff Gault’s plan for his stable of women, finding herself caught in a troubling position of responsibility as new girls are brought in.

For “Eden” to work properly as a drama, the viewer must be crystal clear on the lead character’s behavioral motivation. Introduced as an intelligent girl prone to adolescent mistakes, Eden’s admission into Sheriff Gault’s concrete campus of teen prostitutes is genuinely frightening, understanding the terror of kidnapping and the perverse mechanics of the organization, who employ a nurse (Tantoo Cardinal) to sedate and check the health of the prisoners, while a strict routine of showering and pregnancy checks make up their day. Eden is terrified, initially refusing to take part in the plan of exploitation, forced to begin her violation at a fetish porn shoot, which is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her grotesque experiences. And just when the full impact of it all begins to take shape, Griffiths cuts to a year later, with Eden’s entire thought process and incarceration skipped to meet up with a character on the other side of her trauma.

“Eden” has a habit of removing important business to push the story along, more interested in girl’s responsibilities as a semi-madam than her Stockholm syndrome, which isn’t given nearly enough opportunity to register. In fact, it’s almost implausible, watching Eden skip numerous opportunities to escape later in her captivity (an early, failed dash is detailed), confusing the characterization. If she’s zombified, unable to motivate herself into fleeing, Griffiths doesn’t reinforce the paralysis. If Eden’s simply too frightened to make a move, the terror doesn’t register through Chung’s flat performance with a role that requires a more seasoned talent to illuminate in full. The feature doesn’t exactly know where to go, more confident with conjuring ugliness than inspecting the subtleties of this supposed brainwashing, though even that is up for debate. One scene has Eden begging her captors to kill her, another finds the girl willing to shoot a new acquisition to entertain Vaughn. In the end, it’s almost impossible to tell what’s going on inside the character.

Despite a comfortably menacing turn by Bridges and stomach-turning scenes of manipulation and punishment, “Eden” doesn’t cut deep enough to disturb. Although based on a true story, the textures of the experience have been rubbed away, leaving the feature empty when it should land every last punch. It’s a laudable effort to expose a despicable criminal trade, yet without the dramatic connective tissue to aid comprehension of even the darkest of thoughts, “Eden” concludes with indifference instead of tears.

Starring: Jamie Chung, Beau Bridges, Scott Mechlowicz, Matt O'Leary, Tantoo Cardinal, Grace Arends
Director: Megan Griffiths

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