An intimate Irish drama about a married couple in crisis, Eden centers on Breda (Eileen Walsh) and Billy Farrell (Aidan Kelly), a seemingly normal pair approaching their 10th wedding anniversary. In private, their marriage shows signs of strain. As Billy begins to obsess over a younger woman, Breda searches for a way to preserve their bond, focusing on a shared night out at the pub as the solution to their malaise.
Adapted by Eugene O’Brien from his own stageplay, and skillfully directed by Declan Recks, Eden avoids many of the gritty, hand-held photographed clichés associated with the early kitchen-sink dramas of Mike Leigh, with which this film otherwise shares a few things in common. It’s spare, but never aggressively so, and constructed with a nice sense of composition. Walsh (The Magdalene Sisters) ably locates the desperate sadness at the core of Breda, yet Kelly (who looks like a cross between Colm Feore and Will Arnett, with a few minor acne scars) also deftly conveys how simple shame can color and warp personal choices. Watching him try to negotiate time and space at the local watering hole between his wife and a silent crush summons forth an angsty, melancholic adult version of the old sitcom story chestnut about juggling two prom dates. What on the surface seems a simple case of a wandering male eye, though, by the end of the film becomes a bit more complex, and heartrending. There’s a palpable tension in the air because one wants to see matters reconciled, and these characters stay together.
There is undeniably an element of distancing cultural specificity to the movie (something confirmed by a recent piece in Newsweek about the dramatic effect that the rash of British and Irish pub closings were having on respective national psyches), but at its core Eden is about romantic hope dangling on a string, and the curious, cavernous spaces between men and women, even — maybe especially — those who love each other. Surely that’s a universal story… no matter how briar patch-thick the accents are.For more information on the film, click here. (Liberation Entertainment, unrated, 83 minutes)