September 6, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Toronto 2014 Review: “Eden”


EDEN (IFC):  release date unscheduled – Watch It At Home

Notwithstanding its subtitles, the genre of Mia Hanson-Love’s EDEN, which had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, isn’t unfamiliar to American eyes:  the rise and fall of a musical genre, as reflected through a group of friends who are involved with it.  Here the music is the mid-1990s outgrowth of house electronica known as garage, and the protagonist is Paul (Felix de Givry), inspired by Hanson-Love’s own brother Sven, who was a DJ during this period and co-wrote the script with his sister.

The events that transpire over the 20 years covered by Eden are familiar, too, from their Hollywood equivalents.  There’s the rise to success (although in this case not of a gigantic sort) and then a corresponding fall, drug use, an unfortunately premature death, romances that mostly turn out badly, recurring appearances over the years by characters who had seemed gone for good (Greta Gerwig shows up briefly as an American ex-love of Paul’s), fallings-out among the friends, and then a final section suggesting increased maturity and possible redemption.  What separates Hanson-Love’s version of the tale from the many we’ve seen before is its emotional reticence and a generally low-key avoidance of melodrama.  That turns out to be a mixed blessing, though, because without the bombast that Hollywood would have given the saga, it feels, for all the welcome specificity of its details, like there isn’t much here to compel a 131-minute stay.

Paul isn’t depicted as a genius or a visionary, and although two of his friends end up becoming Daft Punk, there’s no particular irony or edge to the revelation that the movie’s protagonist is a journeyman rather than the key figure of his musical moment.  (This isn’t Inside Llewyn Davis.)  Paul is just a enthusiastic DJ who has a moderate level of success for a time, and his relationships, with both his friends and lovers, aren’t any more distinctive.  We never even really get a feeling for why Paul is so gripped by this music, and if Hanson-Love’s point is that those reasons don’t matter, and all that does is Paul’s commitment, the result is a story that feels more generic than it should.  In Hanson-Love’s Father Of My Children and Goodbye First Love, she dealt with suicide and passionate romance, subjects that responded well to the filmmaker’s tendency toward understatement, but here, working on a broader and more populist canvas, the approach feels reserved to the point of lacking substance.

Eden is beautifully crafted, with fluid camerawork by Denis Lenoir, convincing production design by Anna Falgueres, and a structure that allows Hanson-Love to glide through the years.  (I can’t speak to the specific music choices, although there was some grumbling after the screening from a few audience members who seemed better informed than I.)  The cast is adept, although only Pauline Etienne, as the most vivid of Paul’s girlfriends, really breaks out of the ensemble.  For those who have a particular interest in the garage music period, Eden may be a valuable document.  For the rest of us, though, it’s not much more than a curiosity.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."