By: Scott Weinberg (review reprinted from 04/27/08 -- Tribeca Film Festival)
Even at film festivals, my tastes generally run towards the dark, the funny, or the weird movies -- but I've always had a real soft spot for all things Irish, so as I browsed through my film guide I found a good option called Eden. Based on the award-winning stage play of the same name, Eden is about not much more than the slow disintegration of a marriage -- just as the couple is about to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary, no less. Gee, that sounds like fun, doesn't it? OK, so Eden isn't exactly a "fun" movie -- but it is one of the most honest, touching, and quietly insightful "people stories" I've seen in quite some time. And that sort of experience is definitely "fun," albeit in a decidedly grown-up way.
Clocking in at a brisk 84 minutes (and without a wasted frame in there), Eden tells the tale of Billy and Breda, a seemingly contented -- but actually quite bored and uncommunicative -- married couple who have slowly come to take each other for granted. The spouses obviously still love one another, but there's nothing there in the way of spontaneity, passion or surprises. Breda hopes that their upcoming anniversary will smooth things over a bit, but it's pretty clear that this couple is suffering from a few quiet years of "going through the motions." Billy is a good provider and a loyal dad to their two children, but he seems to be on the cusp of a seriously embarrassing midlife crisis. For her part, Breda (like most women, regardless of age) simply wants to feel wanted -- and Billy's not exactly delivering the goods in the affection department.
The supporting players exist to illustrate the many options that both Billy and Breda have avoided: Billy's got a few "swinging single" pals, but it sure seems like one of 'em is a tale-spinning braggart and the other one is just biding his time until the right gal comes along. For her part, Breda has one very loyal friend who has horrible luck with men, plus she's always butting heads with the town's most popular (and therefore snootiest) housewife. Billy spends most of his free time down at the pub; Breda is left to watch television in an empty room as her kids sleep down the hall. In a Hollywood flick, Billy would become The Big Jerk and Breda would become The Holy Victim. Fortunately this is nothing close to a Hollywood flick. I've never been a husband, but I'd be willing to bet a big bag of money that thousands of married couples will find much to talk about once they're done watching Eden. (Hopefully together.)
So it sounds like a pretty dour (even miserable) tale, yes? Nope. Thanks to the astute direction from Declan Recks, two superlative lead performances from Aidan Kelly and Eileen Walsh, and a screenplay by Eugene O'Brien (here adapting his own play) that offers realistic people going through relatable issues in a refreshingly honest fashion -- this is a great little movie. Eden is almost achingly personal -- in a way you rarely see in films outside arthouses or film festivals -- and it's a testament to the small-but-powerful Irish film industry that tiny little personal stories like this one get funding.