When a credits sequence presents its cast ‘in order of appearance’ and yet the final character you’re introduced to is the seventh name you read, you get the impression the filmmakers involved are more interested in appearances than reality. Such is the problem throughout Project Eden Vol. 1, where almost every decision stems from the desire to make everything look or sound like it’s from a better movie – with no thought to the logic of either the characters or the narrative.
Evelyn (Fradenburgh) is the widowed mother of a boy who exists in a limbo between being awake and lacking consciousness, who after six years the authorities have decided it’s time to put to sleep. Upon going home to ponder this eventuality, Evelyn is disturbed by Ethan (Hansen), an ex-military man (like Evelyn’s late husband) whose own daughter suffered from the same condition, and who sort-of implies that Evelyn’s son is at the centre of a global conspiracy. With fake FBI officers hot on their tails, the pair head over the border in search of answers from an increasingly unlikely series of obvious guru types – none of whom seem willing to speak with any kind of beneficial clarity.
This isn’t even a case of the substance being hamstrung by the style, as the dialogue, direction and performances are all deeply clunky; it’s the kind of film where the supporting characters are defined by the eccentricity they’ve each been given, where hiding in plain sight is taken to an idiotic degree (‘They’ll never think to look for us in this, the only building within view’) and where the dialogue alternates abruptly between being toe-curlingly expositional and barely bothering to explain what’s going on. Fradenburgh’s Evelyn is given to taking on trust and subsequently acting upon a vast amount of very loosely given and never substantiated information, whereas the subsequent narrative reverses and character developments are so heavily signposted it’s astonishing she can’t see them coming.
Project Eden is very pretty – someone evidently got a new drone for Christmas – but the acting is all just a little too intense and self-conscious, and such humour as there is forced and incongruous. It’s incredibly woolly-minded, the eventual revelation about humanity’s situation being potentially interesting but ill thought through and clumsily presented. The hippies versus heavies scenario desperately wants to favour the freethinkers (prior to revealing them as anything but) while being too in awe of its guns and chases.
This is confused and heavy-going, and thanks to its ‘Part one of two’ nature rather unsatisfying. It is, however, entirely possible that it will find a welcoming audience among the kind of viewers who enjoy superficial profundity and lots of talking in really deep voices.
Special Features: The Concept / Journey to Eden, Building a Set / Waipu – A Day on Set / Sounds of Eden / Trailers
PROJECT EDEN VOL. 1 / CERT: M (AUSTRALIA) / DIRECTOR: ASHLEE JENSEN, TERRANCE M. YOUNG / SCREENPLAY: ASHLEE JENSEN, TERRANCE M. YOUNG / STARRING: EMILY FRADENBURGH, PETER CHRISTIAN HANSEN, MIKE DUPOD, CLIFF SIMON, ERICK AVARI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (AUSTRALIA); UK RELEASE TBA