“Eden,” Irish helmer Declan Recks’ depiction of a marriage sliding toward dissolution, burrows into the everyday details, mapping the surface tension that keeps a stagnant relationship afloat. But pic loses its delicate edge when it builds to a prescribed dramatic flashpoint within an overly compressed timeframe — a structural holdover from the pic’s stage play roots that ultimately tips it into meller territory. Excellent cast notwithstanding, the domestic drama seems unlikely to stray far from home.
Pic fixates on a couple, Billy (Aiden Kelly) and Breda Farrell (Eileen Walsh), the week before their 10th wedding anniversary. Billy, an amiable telephone line repairman, listens in on any family’s conversations but his own, and takes every opportunity to go out drinking, hang with his pals and relive his one moment of glory, when he saved a kid from drowning. He becomes obsessed with a much younger woman (Sarah Greene), reading all manner of sexual promise into the simple friendliness she displays toward her dad’s contemporary.
Meanwhile, wife Breda stays home with the two kids, pretending to sleep when hubby comes late to bed, devastated by his lack of desire for her. She pins all her hopes on the special dress she is sewing for the anniversary night she prays will rejuvenate her moribund marriage.
Helmer Recks and scripter Eugene O’Brien, who adapted his award-winning play to the screen, have ably translated the piece’s extended his-and-her monologues into long silences, oblique glances and occasional gut-spillings to confidants. But the pic’s real find has got be the family’s surreally synthetic and symmetrical home; the slightly elevated angle from which it is shot adds to the sense of a dead space devoid of spontaneity.
Recks and O’Brien fare worse, though, in dramatizing the fateful anniversary-night finale. The sureness of touch Recks deployed in earlier scenes deserts him entirely as the escalating hysteria of intercut action leads to a forced, falsely theatrical climax.
Thesping, however, never falters. Kelly proves adept at balancing Billy’s boyish charm with his immature denial, while Walsh’s luminous Breda is a marvel of conscious vulnerability. Supporting cast is equally fine.
Widescreen lensing by Owen McPolin captures the isolation and containment of a small town set against the wild sweep of the landscape, while John Hand’s production design brings that constraint back home.