×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Eden

Scrupulously avoiding salaciousness and overstatement, "Eden" translates a true-life tale of human trafficking into an effectively low-key, arrestingly suspenseful drama.

With:
With: Jamie Chung, Matt O'Leary, Beau Bridges, Jeanine Monterroza, Naama Kates, Eddie Martinez, Tantoo Cardinal, Tracey Fairaway, Scott Mechlowicz.

Scrupulously avoiding salaciousness and overstatement, “Eden” translates a true-life tale of human trafficking into an effectively low-key, arrestingly suspenseful drama. Still, it may prove challenging to convince potential ticketbuyers that this handsomely lensed indie is something more substantial than a Lifetime woman-in-jeopardy telepic with R-rated language. Fest exposure could help — the pic earned an audience award for narrative feature, along with prizes for helmer Megan Griffiths and lead player Jamie Chung at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival — but critical buzz may have to be high-decibel to guarantee at least limited theatrical play.

On the other hand, a savvy distrib should be able to generate press coverage outside traditional print and digital entertainment sites by emphasizing the real events that inspired the screenplay co-written by Griffiths and Richard B. Phillips.

In 1994, Korean-American teen Hyun Jae (Chung) enters a New Mexico bar with a fake ID, in search of fun and frolic after another hard day of helping her immigrant parents run a small gift shop. Unfortunately, she leaves the bar with a smooth-talking Mr. Wrong and winds up imprisoned as a sex slave by an outfit operated by Bob Gault (Beau Bridges), a corrupt federal marshal.

Eden” is at once discreetly elliptical and almost clinically specific in its depiction of Hyun Jae’s indoctrination and exploitation in the slave trade. Female nudity is conspicuous by its absence throughout the pic, but Griffiths methodically details how her lead character and other captive girls are imprisoned in a reconverted storage-unit center, routinely drugged by a coolly efficient nurse (Tantoo Cardinal) and intimidated into docility by the marshal’s minions.

At first, Hyun Jae, renamed Eden by her captor, rebels against being used for prostitution and porn films. (The pic strains credibility only when she’s not killed on the spot after maiming a would-be client and attempting to escape.) As time goes by, however, she dials down her defiance.

Driven by what appear to be equal measures survival instinct and Stockholm syndrome, she becomes a model employee, gaining sufficient trust so that she’s allowed to work as driver, telephone receptionist and, for all practical purposes, personal assistant to Vaughan (Matt O’Leary), the marshal’s second-in command.

“Eden” ratchets up the suspense through the skillful application of ambiguity, leaving the audience to wonder from scene to scene just how much Hyun Jae will play along to get along. Indeed, one scene teasingly suggests that she betrays two escaped girls to maintain her own position of trust. It’s a tribute to Chung’s subtle, multilayered performance that she maintains sympathy even when it’s not entirely clear how far she’s gone over to the dark side.

As the scruffy, mood-swinging Vaughan, a druggie whose own motives occasionally are opaque, up-and-comer O’Leary (from 2011 SXSW award winner “Natural Selection”) impresses and unsettles while indicating his character is never far from a violent outburst. When he does actually waylay someone, it almost comes as relief when he tells Hyun Jae that, hey, he didn’t lose his temper, he actually intended to do what he did.

Bridges makes the most of relatively limited screentime, just as his character makes the most of his resources as a marshal. Early on, Gault warns the girls not to put their families at risk by trying to escape. “I have your addresses,” he drawls. “I have everything.”

Pic’s final scenes veer perilously close to melodrama but do provide an undeniably satisfying emotional payoff. Production values are first-rate.

Eden

Production: A Centripetal Films production. Produced by Colin Harper Plank, Jacob Mosler. Co-producer, Trent Broin. Directed by Megan Griffiths. Screenplay, Richard B. Phillips, Griffiths, from a story by Griffiths, Chong Kim.

Crew: Camera (color), Sean Porter; editor, Eric Frith; music, Joshua Morrison, Jeramy Koepping, Matthew Emerson Brown; production designer, Ben Blankenship; set decorator, Laurie Hicks; costume designer, Rebecca Luke; sound, Dave Richards; associate producer, Mark Hoinacki; assistant director, Scott Larkin; casting, Emily Schweber. Reviewed on DVD, Austin, March 13, 2012. (In SXSW Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 98 MIN.

Cast: With: Jamie Chung, Matt O'Leary, Beau Bridges, Jeanine Monterroza, Naama Kates, Eddie Martinez, Tantoo Cardinal, Tracey Fairaway, Scott Mechlowicz.

More Scene

  • John CenaSports Illustrated Sportsperson of the

    John Cena on WWE's Acceptance by Hollywood and the Professional Sports World

    John Cena says the WWE is finally getting the attention it deserves by Hollywood and the professional sports world. “I’m just glad that no longer are we looked down upon, not only by the sport industry, but by the performing arts industry,” Cena told Variety on Tuesday night in Beverly Hills at Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of [...]

  • Steve Carell Welcome to Marwen

    Steve Carell on New Film 'Welcome to Marwen' and Reprising His 'Anchorman' Character

    In 2000, Mark Hogancamp was nearly beaten to death by five men outside of a bar. Left with brain damage and little money to afford therapy, Hogancamp began creating miniature doll versions of himself, his friends, and his attackers as a way to cope. This true story inspired the 2010 documentary “Marwencol” and the upcoming [...]

  • Christian Bale'Vice' film premiere, Arrivals, Los

    Christian Bale Recalls Meeting Donald Trump: 'He Thought I Was Bruce Wayne'

    With Christian Bale‘s latest film, “Vice,” a political dramedy, it’s inevitable ties will be drawn between the film and the current political administration and its chief, President Donald Trump. On the red carpet for the premiere of “Vice,” Bale, who stars as former Vice President Dick Cheney, shared that he met the current president while [...]

  • Amy Poehler Is Ready for a

    Amy Poehler Is Ready for a 'Parks and Rec' Reunion

    Is Amy Poehler just getting our hopes up? We hope not, because the funny lady tells Variety that she’s ready for a “Parks and Recreation” reunion. “I am technically available,” Poehler said on Monday at Smart Girls’ 10th anniversary celebration dinner. “I have like six of Leslie’s blazers in my closet, so anytime.” More Reviews Film [...]

  • Meredith Walker, Rashida Jones, Amy Poehler,

    Inside Amy Poehler's Smart Girls 10th Anniversary Dinner (EXCLUSIVE)

    “I’ve made an observation I’d like to share. I’m the only one that’s eaten my crab cake,” joked Amy Poehler as she addressed the room during the round robin introductions being made at her Smart Girls 10th anniversary dinner on Monday night. The 16 women at the table, who were so enthralled in the conversation [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron, Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de

    Alfonso Cuaron Says 'Roma' Is Better in Theaters

    Director Alfonso Cuaron opted to work with Netflix for his latest film “Roma,” but the decorated filmmaker isn’t discounting the importance of a big-screen viewing. “The complete experience of ‘Roma’ is unquestionably in a movie theater,” Cuaron said Monday night at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles for the premiere of “Roma.”  The streaming giant did [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content