A series of clichés delivered with frustrating detachment, Eden finds Mia Hansen-Løve (Goodbye First Love, Father of My Children) charting one aspiring DJ’s career over the course of electronic music ‘90s and ’00s heyday. Beginning in 1992, Paul (Félix de Gibry) becomes one of the leading practitioners of Garage, a soulful disco-infused techno subgenre that soon thrusts him into the electronica scene’s spotlight alongside other up-and-comers like Daft Punk. Unlike that still-relevant duo, however, Paul and partner Stan (Hugo Conzelmann) find only modest success during their two-decade run. Hansen-Løve detailsthis a natural and compelling feel for her milieu, which is marked by drug use, dancing, camaraderie, and an overarching sense of both positivity and possibility.
Throughout Eden, Paul snorts much coke, dates and breaks up with many girlfriends (including Greta Gerwig, in a stilted-dialogue supporting part), and spins countless records. However, it operates at a distant remove its protagonist, much like the crowds that Hansen-Løve shoots in a handful of pans that highlight their joyous bodies and voices coming together in many-as-one kinship. Paul is front-and-center, and yet aside from a few details (his rejection of university life), he remains a total cipher, so that when one ex-girlfriend – upon seeing him for the first time in years – declares “You haven’t changed at all,” the joke isn’t just that Paul foolishly refuses to mature by clinging to his DJing ambitions, it’s that he fundamentally can’t change because he has no noteworthy or defining personality traits to begin with.
As usual, Hansen-Løve bifurcates her tale, replete with multiple first-half events echoed by similar (darker) moments during the second half. Yet such structural neat-and-tidiness merely underlines the formulaic schematism at play here, which ultimately offers a familiar – not to mention cool, withdrawn – portrait of the painful process of learning to let go of your dreams in order to grow up.