Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"This is immersive filmmaking, intense and absorbing all the way up to its unexpected ending." | Photo: Glasgow Film Festival

What does it mean to live in Paradise? According to Lóa’s friend Ronni (Gunnar Marís) it means lying on a beach in Cuba all day doing as little as possible. Some followers of the Abrahamic faiths, however, contend that it’s simply about lacking the knowledge of good and evil.

Never in the history of cinema has there been a meet cute quite like that of Lóa (Telma Huld Jóhannesdóttir) and Óliver (Hansel Eagle). As the film opens, the latter is pelting along the street, naked except for a small white towel, pursued by the police. Breaking into a flat to hide, he rushes to the bathroom to clean himself up and belatedly notices that there’s somebody in the bath behind him – somebody fully submerged, with sticky tin foil and a lighter sitting on the edge of the tub. This is more than he bargained for and there’s a moment when he could choose to run, but instead he fishes Lóa out and performs CPR. Sparked back into life, she asks in confusion if he’s a friend of Steini’s. Steini, the owner of the flat, has overdosed in the living room. He’s stone cold – and some very nasty men to whom he owes money are banging on the door.

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As neither Óliver nor Lóa really has a coherent idea as to what they should do next, they end up tagging along together – we get the feeling that this is how each of them has lived life so far. She’s excited when she learns that he’s a famous local dealer of magic mushrooms, as if she’d met a celebrity. He’s bemused by her intensity and her careless attitude towards her own survival. Within a few hours they’re kissing. Not long after that, they’re daydreaming about various criminal get rich quick schemes and he’s trying to watch her back as she runs errands that involve dealing with some very unpleasant local gangsters.

Like True Romance if it were realistic and set in a country so small that fantasies about running away have nowhere to go, Eden sees its young protagonists drift from one crisis to another, Lóa frequently too drugged up to understand what’s happening and Óliver apparently bereft of the ability to think ahead. Whilst one might expect to be annoyed by characters like this, however, their behaviour seems so natural – largely thanks to the fresh performances from the young leads – that it’s easy to relax and simply be carried along. What’s more, director Snævar Sölvason doesn’t allow time for much thought. This is immersive filmmaking, intense and absorbing all the way up to its unexpected ending.

Within the meandering plot, not everything is equally well worked out and there are points where the film is sentimental to a degree that undermines its pleasing wit, but its energy and poise make up for a lot and anyone who has spent time socialising within a drug using community will appreciate how well attuned it is to such spaces. In the meatier role, Jóhannesdóttir is a standout and one hopes that Iceland is not to small to provide her with equally challenging work in the future.

Reviewed on: 08 Mar 2020
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While escaping from the police, Óliver accidentally stumbles into a flat and saves Lóa’s life. The pair are both users and dealers, but want nothing more than to escape and start a new life. However, the situation becomes considerably more complicated when they decide to use stolen narcotics from an infamous drug lord to fund their escape plans.

Director: Snævar Sölvason

Writer: Snævar Sölvason

Starring: Telma Huld Jóhannesdóttir, Hansel Eagle, Arnar Jónsson

Year: 2019

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: Iceland


Glasgow 2020

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