Note: Eden is receiving a simultaneous release this week. It will be available both on blinkbox and at your local specialist cinema (if you live in a big city)
Hyun Jae is a Korean-American teen living in Texas who heads to a bar one night with her best friend. They’ve scored a pair of fake IDs and before they know it, they’re being hit on by the cute firefighter sitting at the bar.
Cut to: days later. Hyun Jae has been kidnapped and is being held in a storage facility in the middle of the desert. She’s surrounded by teenage girls; many of them are foreign, all of them have been forced into prostitution. Renamed ‘Eden’ by the facility’s cruel boss (Beau Bridges), she’s trucked off to frat parties and suburban homes and forced to degrade herself in any number of ways. She tries to tell people what’s happened to her but she’s met with fear, or perhaps apathy from members of the public.
Based on horrific true events, the film’s story is co-written by Chong Kim, an American girl who was kidnapped and forced into prostitution much the same way as her protagonist. This kind of subject matter wouldn’t necessarily thrive in a film with bigger production values or showier camerawork and director Megan Griffiths goes to great pains to ground the film in details. It succeeds on the merits of the minutiae: showing the captors placating the girls by handing out kittens or the creepy ways in which they’d make the girls do office work as well.
Tackling the title role is Jamie Chung, who you may remember from Sucker Punch, in which she also played a poor girl being held against her will and subjected to psycho-sexual torture. Her acting seems a little mannered in the first act, but as Eden goes through one of the worst experiences imaginable, her change from young girl to a harder, wiser and smarter woman is pretty palpable.
It’s an incredibly harrowing experience but with a 98 minute run-time, it remains a tight film that’s careful not to fetishise the abuse or become leery. It’s a serious and hefty story: and the film-makers have had the good sense of just telling it without any bells and whistles.
Eden is available at both cinemas and blinkbox from 19 July