Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Short Film Review: Eden

Eden (2014)
Written by Jason Rostovsky
Directed by Sean Willis

Trigger warning: Suicide and depression.

In a perfect world, I'd only write here about films and shows that I really liked. Indeed, the shows I cover are shows I enjoy watching, or else why would I keep giving them my attention. But I cover even the episodes I don't really much care for. Such is also the case for short films. Eden is not the worst thing I've ever watched, but it is painfully heavy handed and full of cliches.

Set in the year 2042, Eden is the story of Adam and Everett (yes those are their actual names), two young gay men interred at the Eden facility. From what I can tell, the Eden facility is a prison / hospital where gay men can be "cured" of their homosexuality. Or more specifically where white gay men can be cured since I don't think I saw a single brown face in the entire movie. There's no word on how Adam and Everett ended up there, but it doesn't seem like the treatment is voluntary. But the point is that Adam and Everett are in love, or well Everett at least seems to be in love with Adam while Adam doesn't know how he feels about anything. And it is through their respective love and ambivalence that they decide to break out. They're aided, for no discernible reason whatsoever, by one of the facilities nurses.

Eden is a bit of a mess from top to bottom. The characterization is spotty at best, the world lacks enough detail to be believable, and they force out cliche scenes as if they're brilliantly reinventing the wheel. I swear if I never see another scene of someone punching a mirror again it'll be too soon. Devon Graye (whom you may recognize from his stints on Dexter and, more recently, The Flash) and Derek Stusynski do passable work as Adam and Everett respectively. But any deeper grasp of their characters is ultimately undermined by the weak dialogue and the waffling storyline they're given.

The extended scene the two of them share in the church is the biggest offender. They talk a lot but I can't be sure that they actually say much of anything. Everett wants to get out, but Adam isn't so sure. Everett declares his love, but Adam can't even return the favor. And yet in the meantime, Everett seems to have been relying on Adam to be the one to come up with the plan to get them out in the first place. Is it because Everett is too weak to come up with a plan on his own, or did Adam lie to him and say he had a plan when he wasn't even really considering actually leaving to begin with? If it's the latter, then why are they together at all? Is it really love that binds them, or is Everett the only person Adam's found willing to blow him in a church and worth keeping around for just that reason?

The weak love story could maybe be forgiven if the world were better conceived and executed, but sadly there are more questions than answers on that front. If the Eden facility is involuntary, and the idea behind it all is to cure these people of their affliction, then why do the patients get to decide when or if they get the cure? The big red button in each of the patients' rooms seems counterintuitive to the core concept of the world they created. If gay men are bring rounded up and locked away, and there's a functioning cure for homosexuality, then why wouldn't that cure just be forced onto the men crossing the Eden threshold?

The saddest part about all of this for me is that the problems with Eden aren't problems that would require a feature length runtime to fix. Sometimes a short story only needs to be flushed out and longer to be improved, but in this case, the story they're trying to tell in Eden is perfectly suitable for the short format. But that doesn't change the fact that it needed an extra edit or two, and maybe for the people behind the camera to be more aware of the world they're working in. I mean did we really need another scene of someone getting hurt while running away and tearily telling their love to run off and save himself? I think not.

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