Eden (tbc)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner19/07/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 98 mins

Engaging, sharply focussed and pointedly non-exploitative sex trafficking drama with a strong script, assured direction and a terrific central performance from Jamie Chung.

What's it all about?
Directed by Megan Griffiths, Eden is loosely based on the true story of Chong Kim and stars Jamie Chung as 18 year old Korean-American Hyun-Jae, who's abducted while on a date with a good-looking guy in uniform (Scott Mechlowicz) and sold into a prostitution ring run by a corrupt law enforcement officer (Beau Bridges as Marshall Bob).

Renamed Eden, Hyun-Jae is forced to work alongside girls much younger than herself and soon realises that her age actually puts her in danger, as girls older than 18 are considered ‘damaged goods’ and mysteriously disappear.

After being brutally punished for a failed escape attempt, Eden realises she has to adapt to survive, so she befriends put-upon pimp Vaughan (Matt O'Leary), a young ex-veteran with a drug habit who occasionally gets his numbers wrong. Bizarrely, Eden finds herself becoming complicit in some of Vaughan's dirty work, but is she biding her time to escape or is she actually getting drawn into the business?

The Good
It's always a treat when a talented supporting actor is handed a lead role and Jamie Chung duly steps up, delivering an emotionally complex performance that requires her to keep her true feelings closely guarded (we also see her distance herself from her work by adopting a different persona).

Matt O'Leary is equally good, managing to find likeable qualities in Vaughan, despite the nature of his work; the gradual bond he develops with Eden is genuinely touching, as he responds to someone actually caring about him. In addition, there's reliably strong support from Beau Bridges as Marshall Bob.

The Great
Griffiths' direction is assured throughout, deliberately shying away from exploitation or titillation and instead laying bare the facts of the situation in brutally clinical fashion, whether through seemingly casual lines of dialogue (‘How old are you?’, ‘Fifteen’, ‘How long have you been here?’, ‘Three years’) or a strong attention to detail on the ins and outs of running the sex trafficking ring (how the girls are forced into staying, the conditions they are kept in, the high levels of corruption required for such a system to exist and so on).

The tightly focussed script is extremely impressive, often remaining with Eden's point of view, so certain key events happen offscreen and are then revealed to her character (and the audience) in chilling, matter-of-fact fashion. Griffiths is also a dab hand with a brutal edit in a similar way – there's a superbly directed moment where Eden has to make an important decision and just as you start to hope she makes the right one, there's a sharp cut that tells you otherwise.

Worth seeing?
Impressively directed and superbly written, Eden is an emotionally engaging, sharply observed sex trafficking drama with a terrific central performance from Jamie Chung. Recommended.

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Content updated: 20/02/2020 05:06

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