A vivid and disturbing sex-trafficking thriller, starring Jamie Chung, Matt O'Leary and Beau Bridges
Films dealing with prostitution and specifically with sex-trafficking tread a fine line; neither the sensationalist exploitation flick nor the depressing semi-documentary polemic provide much incentive to lure audiences in. Indie-film writer, producer and director Megan Griffiths’ tense drama Eden surprises by managing to paint a vivid and disturbing picture of the trafficking experience within the context of a conventional thriller.
Hyun Jae (Jamie Chung) is an attractive Korean-American teenager from small-town New Mexico. She is lured into a romantic assignation, only to be drugged and find herself trapped in a compound of trafficked women. Forced into a world of prostitution and pornography, and given the name Eden, she adapts to her circumstances, and finds an uneasy ally in the permanently stoned Vaughan (Matt O’Leary). Vaughan has become increasingly uncomfortable under the rule of his boss, Bob (Beau Bridges), providing Eden with a chance to escape her grim fate.
Eden is a thriller in the crisp, sensitive style of Winter’s Bone or Martha Marcy May Marlene, with a resourceful female protagonist battling corrupt male patriarchs in her quest to reassert her own identity. Chung, O’Leary and Bridges all play their roles with conviction, and when the retribution finally comes around, it’s grimly satisfying.
Eden is a B-movie, with small scale aspirations, but also manages to convey an effective picture of the inhuman nature of sex-traffiking, capturing the appalling lack of feeling required to see human lives as nothing but a commodity. A few melodramatic moments aside (Eden’s early castration of a elderly client is a little too much, too soon), Griffiths handles potentially crude material with genuine skill. It’s hard to get audiences to view a film on this topic; Griffiths deserves credit for packaging some genuinely shocking and provocative content into a cautionary tale that’s also highly watchable