Eden

Eden

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Based on a real-lilfe case of human trafficking, Megan Griffiths (writing with Richard B Phillips and with help from the original victim Chong Kim) takes a measured approach to this story of kidnap and abuse. Hyun Jae (Jamie Chung) is a 19-year-old kid at the point of near-rebellion from her parents which means she sneaks off for a bit of underage drinking with her pal but probably gets home on time. Not on the night she meets an attractive fireman in a bar, though, because what looks as though it might hot date turns into a nightmare after she's bundled into the boot of a car. Hyun Jae - soon renamed Eden by her captors - is the latest acquisition to a 'stable' run for the most part by crooked lawman Bob (Beau Bridges), who farms out the youngsters for cash.

We follow Eden through her initiation and then catch up with her as she realises she's just about the oldest kid on the block and sets about working her wiles on Bob's crack-addicted lieutenant Vaughan (Matt O'Leary) in an attempt to ensure she stays useful.

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Griffiths handles the exploitation with care, hinting at what goes on rather than rubbing our faces in it. Imagining what might be about to happen to a woman kneeling with her handcuffed hands over her head is every bit as disturbing as watching what happens. She also uses the "chaste" underwear of white vests and knickers which the girls wear when they're not out on a job in a bid to emphasise their youth. The problem here, however - and it is a big one - is that all the actresses are much older than the roles they are cast in. Chung, for example, is now 30 and must have been at least 28 when this film was shot. While Griffiths' avoidance of the salaciousness that can mar this sort of film is to be praised, the casting of these older actresses feels like a punch has been pulled. If we really did see 14 and 15-year-olds lined up in a corrider it would be much more affecting than the sight of twentysomethings.

Putting that aside, however, this is otherwise a well-handled film that shows the insidiousness of the business end of trafficking, putting the emphasis firmly on just how domestic this can be - with the women ordinary US citizens who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and the perpetrators not shadowy mafia bad guys but policemen or ex-Army types looking to make a quick buck.

Chung is gripping in the central role and O'Leary deserves credit as the twitchy Vaughan although his character, inevitably, is less well fleshed out. Sometimes Griffiths does threaten to skate just a little too much over the surface - the girls, for example, seem to cope remarkably well considering they are being filled with drugs half of the time. Nevertheless, her film is one of the more mainstream examinations of human trafficking - a fact borne out by is Audience Award at SXSW - that makes its point eloquently without resorting to shock tactics.

Reviewed on: 19 Jul 2013
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A teenager is kidnapped and forced into prostitution.
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Director: Megan Griffiths

Writer: Megan Griffiths, Richard B Phillips

Starring: Jamie Chung, Matt O'Leary, Scott Mechlowicz, Beau Bridges, Tantoo Cardinal, Tracey Fairaway, Russell Hodgkinson

Year: 2012

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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