Movie Review: Eden

woman breaking free

Okay, so this picture isn’t from the movie. I got all paranoid about using an official movie image because, you know, copyrights. So this is a stock photo.


“Eden” is based on the true story of a woman who was abducted by sex traffickers when she was 19.

Eden spent three years in the trade. She lived in a storage unit in the middle of the Nevada desert, along with dozens of other girls, all managed by a few men and some goons. They would leave the storage unit to go on calls and service men.

Over time, Eden—who used to help run her parents’ store—convinced her pimp she was smart enough to help him run a better organization. (She was certainly smarter than him. She basically gained his trust by saving him from his own idiocy in front of some johns. Although he had the advantage of viciousness.) That’s how Eden worked her way up from turning tricks every day, to answering phones, to having a hand in running the organization.


The lead actress, Jamie Chung, is amazing in the role of Eden.

(She was so good that I actually Googled her and found her on Twitter. Follow her blog here!) Throughout the film, even as Eden gains power and trust, Ms. Chung makes it very clear that her character is trapped. Her mannerisms, expressions, line delivery—the whole package—is submissive and fearful. Complete desperation radiates off the screen, even when she whips out manufactured confidence to service a john.

And yet, somehow, she still comes off as strong. It’s as though through her willingness to do what she has to do, she has found the most powerful route to survival. I wanted her to escape through the whole movie. But if she couldn’t escape—if that option was off the table—I rooted for her to do what it took to keep herself safe.

And maybe it was because I knew the outcome of her story, or maybe it was because of Ms. Chung’s performance—but I completely believed, and expected, that she would outwit her captors. Which she eventually gained the confidence to do, and the performance was entirely believable.


Beau Bridges is in this film.

He’s really good at playing characters that come off as trustworthy, but are actually assholes. You can almost hear the hissing behind his soft-spoken lines.

He’s the big bad guy for awhile—he runs the storage unit of girls—but he’s also a police officer, so he doesn’t have time to look after the day-to-day running of the organization. That duty falls to a young man played by Matt O’Leary. He’s the one Eden has to gain the trust of. He’s the one who poses the most danger, because he’s insecure in his position and sometimes tries to reassert his dominance with random cruelty.

O’Leary turned out a great performance, too. I hated him, but understood his dilemmas. I’m not saying I sympathized with him, but I saw his flaws through Eden’s eyes. I wanted to yell at her, “He’s insecure about his dominance! Help him feel powerful! Make him trust you then destroy him with fire and brimstone!”


The film does a really good job of exploring the way the experience affects Eden herself.

She goes from weeping and tied up in the trunk of a car, to sexual slavery, to manipulating her pimp, to taking advantage of her fellow victims (there’s a point in the film where she could allow a few girls to escape, but she turns them in and keeps the trust of O’Leary), to helping exploit people.

So at the end of the film . . . who is Eden? Is she still herself? After the abduction of her innocence (hence the name “Eden”), is she still a good person? Has she fallen from grace and sacrificed her goodness in order to survive? And if so, was it worth it? The film doesn’t answer these questions.


Nice work, director Megan Griffiths.

“Eden” is not an exploitative storyline. It’s character oriented, and makes you feel deeply without resorting to graphic depictions of sexual violence. This is not a movie that will get a viewer off on sexual victimization. Some people say “Eden” shies away from depicting violence. But graphic scenes would have changed the nature of the story, which was character driven. As a writer, I can say it’s not easy to make readers/viewers feel so deeply for a character without getting graphic. This was well done.

“Eden” is subtle, but not shy. It’s upsetting, but not exploitative. It’s dramatic, terrifying, and heartbreaking. It goes to the dark places, but it never gets gratuitous.


I’ve said “Eden” is based on a true story. Well, it’s a SUPPOSEDLY true story.

There’s some doubt as to whether the woman who experienced all this—Chong Kim—ACTUALLY experienced all this. There’s some question about whether Ms. Kim could be making the story up to get attention and raise money for herself and the cause.

Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not. That’s not the topic of this article. This is about the movie itself. Anyway, even if Ms. Kim did make up the story, does that mean no girl has experienced the kind of trafficking depicted in this film?


This film is still relevant. Human trafficking is grouped among the top three criminal industries in the world—along with drugs and arms trafficking. The scenarios depicted in “Eden” are far from implausible.

You can watch it on Netflix, where I found it listed as “The Abduction of Eden.”


L. Marrick is a fiction writer and freelance copywriter. 50% of proceeds from her book Working Girl, a memoir of her time working for a professional escort, go to sex trafficking non-profits. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @LMarrick.

© L. Marrick 2014. The content of this article, except for quoted or linked source materials, is protected by copyright. Please contact the author at the above links to request usage.

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