Journalist Louise Quick gave us the heads up on Eden, an interesting film that was released last week on DVD. A gritty, non voyeuristic look at the difficult subject of sex trafficking. It may not be the most easy watch, but it’s definitely one we should see. Here’s her review…..
Ten minutes into Eden and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was heading in the same direction as Taken: a young girl, with a loving father, is led astray by a cocky blonde friend who persuades her into faking her way into a bar and talking to a suspiciously cute man, who turns out to be a wrangler for a brutal sex trafficking ring. Set in 1994 and inspired by the true story of Chong Kim, Hyun Jae, a Korean-American teenager played by Jamie Chung, finds herself imprisoned in a remote storage unit along with dozens of other girls under the control of corrupt Federal Marshall Bob Gault, (Beau Bridges), where she is beaten, drugged and forced into prostitution.
But unlike the usual Hollywood spin, Hyun’s father doesn’t happen to be an ex CIA agent and she quickly realises she is entirely alone. With only her smarts to rely on, she sees her way out in the form of Vaughan (Matt O’Leary), the troubled supervisor who has a curiously idle attitude to overseeing day-to-day operations, keeping the girls in order and ferrying them to and from ‘clients’.
The movie’s real selling point is that you’re seeing everything from Hyun’s perspective and, as Chung said: “There has never really been a story about sex trafficking where the victim takes her fate into her own hands becomes the heroine.”
This is a powerful, gritty movie containing some deeply shocking scenes, but cleverly no explicit violence or abuse is ever directly shown. Evidently Griffiths and her team refused to capitalise on some sort of grim voyeurism, where surely other directors would have, and instead nothing stronger than a consenting kiss is actually depicted.
Talking on BBC Women’s Hour, Kim explained: “You don’t need the violence and graphic scenes to get the point across. When a girl is on a bed curled up and a man walks in you know what’s going to happen and people’s imaginations can be a lot worse than the real picture.”
The focus isn’t on the sexual abuse itself, but on Hyun’s growth and progress as she works her way up the ranks in order to regain some of the control that was stripped from her. Surrounded by rather limp two-dimensional characters, such as the evil cop Bob who may as well be dressed in Victorian garb and twizzeling a large theatrical moustache, you’re drawn to the complicated relationship that develops between Hyun and Vaughan as she gradually wins his loyalty.
Chong has admitted that the movie is only loosely based on her childhood experience. In the real life story, Chong Kim was a child who fell through the cracks of society – running away from home as a teenager and living with foster families, she was groomed and sold into a sex trafficking mob by a man she believed she loved.
Eden is a gripping thriller that, with the help of a strong performance by Chung, sucks you in and depicts a modern, refreshing take on a difficult and chilling subject.