EdenAfter winning the audience award at the 2012 South by Southwest festival, Eden gets its UK release this week. Directed and co-written by Megan Griffiths, the film offers a harrowing examination of sex trafficking. However, despite the vile subject matter and some excellent performances, there is a lingering sense that this feature doesn’t quite hit as hard as it should.

Based on the real life story of Chong Kim, Eden follows the fortunes of 18 year old Korean-American Hyun-Jae (Jamie Chung), who sneaks into a bar in search of fun after another hard day’s work at her immigrant parents’ gift shop. Taking up an offer for a ride home, she is instead abducted and forced into a life of sex slavery. Renamed ‘Eden’, she soon realises that her best chances of escape lie in befriending her captors.

In Eden, Griffiths succeeds in depicting the despicable nature of the sex trafficking industry, and as our titular protagonist learns more about how the organisation works, so too do the audience. Eden’s induction, in which the ‘rules’ are matter-of-factly outlined by the corrupt Sheriff Gault (Beau Bridges) is strongly written and suitably stomach-turning. Whilst there are instances when what is implied is more powerful than showing a potentially uncomfortable scene, by choosing to gloss over many of the film’s more explicit moments Griffiths robs Eden of some much-needed punch. With that said, watching Eden adjust to her new surroundings is compelling, and it’s interesting to see what choices she makes to guarantee her survival.

It’s a credit to Chung’s career-best performance that we’re kept guessing, and the inner struggle that comes with the difficult decisions Hyun-Jae finds herself making is admirably portrayed. Matt O’Leary also delivers a notable turn as the evil but vulnerable Jesse, impressively managing to provoke sympathy from the audience, despite being a  character whose actions certainly do not warrant it.

Impressing on many levels, Eden is a very watchable drama that features an exceptional central performance. Nonetheless, especially when you consider the fact that it is based on a true story, we should be witnessing a far more affecting film.