Sometimes, just sometimes, along comes a film that makes a person ashamed to be male. Eden is one such film. We often hear stories of human trafficking, but we always assume that it's somethng that goes on in third-world countries. Well, Eden proves that's not always the case. Based on real events that took place in the US, Eden tells the story of a young Korean-American woman living in New Mexico who is captured and forced into prostitution.
Naive 18-year-old Hyun Jae (Chung) works in her parents store, but desires amore exciting life. One night she heads to a bar with a girlfriend, armed with a fake ID and a plan to party and flirt with guys. She meets what appears to be a nice young fireman, but he turns out to be a scout for a prostitution ring. Hyun Jae is drugged and taken to a remote storage facility where she is imprisoned, renamed Eden, and put to work as a teenage prostitute with dozens of other young captive women.
At first she resists, but soon Eden is cowed into submission by Vaughan (O’Leary), who oversees the girls for ultimate boss Bob Gault – who also happens to be the local marshal. Gradually, Hyun comes to realise that the only way she will escape from the horrifying situation she's in is to earn Vaughan's trust.
Eden bears some resemblance to the recebntly-released low-budget British film The Seasoning House, although the events of that film take place in the Balkans during a time of war. Both films deal with the subject of sex trafficking, but where Seasoning House becomes an action/revenge thriller, Eden is a more character-driven drama. It's certainly not graphic – there are no nude or sex scenes – and the film harrowing and disturbing nonetheless due to the very nature of its subject matter. But it's also somewhat clinical and removed, whick does dilute the impact somewhat.
The performances all round are spot-on – particularly young Chung, who until now is probably best known for the role of Stu's wife in The Hangover II. She's in almost every scene, and so has to carry the whole film; she does a wonderful job. This is Chung's first lead role in a feature film, and she proves herself to be a very talented actress. A role such as this could not be easy to play, and Chung acquits herself admirably. So too do O’Leary and Bridges as the villains of the piece. Here they craft real, three-dimensional characters with depth and complexity, not mere cardboard cutouts that roles such as these could have been.
Eden is certainly not an "enjoyable" film to watch, but it's an important one. The kidnapping and enslaving of women for sex is a global problem, yet many peiople don't believe that it exists – and even takes place in a first-world country such as the US. THis is organised crime of the worst kind, inflicting unbelievable torture on its victims. And films such as Eden are important in exposing it to the world.