Written and directed by German filmmaker Michael Hoffman, and set in and around a Black Forest spa town, Eden explores the relationship that develops between a corpulent master chef Gregor (Josef Ostendorf) and a younger waitress Eden (Charlotte Roche), herself enduring an unhappy marriage. Despite striving for a fairy-tale sensibility - note the heavenly title and the seemingly magical qualities of Gregor's gourmet creations - this paen to romantic love is a predictably saccharine affair.
"I love to cook and to eat and I desire nothing else", explains the gruff Gregor, who appears to be without any family members, friends or colleagues, save for his loyal deaf waiter Ludwig, although a brief flashback shows his childhood happiness when lying on his mother's pregnant belly, and he later confesses to having loathed his step-father. Specialising in "cucina erotica", the twenty-stone maestro sweeps Eden off her feet with dishes such as bulls' testicles, which swiftly revive her appetite for life. Naturally the shy cook instinctively bonds with her Down's Syndrome daughter Leonie (Leonie Stepp), showing up the lack of empathy of Eden's hapless husband Xaver (Devid Streisow).
There are instructive comparisons with The Family Friend, another current foreign-language release about an improbable love-affair involving a socially ostracised male. Whereas the Italian film has the courage and the visual imagination to explore its protagonist's conscious and unconscious desires, Eden timidly evades the awkward question of Gregor's sexual appetites, by the device of a doctor's note excusing him from lovemaking in case of a heart-attack. And the solid performances from Ostendorf and Roche can't disguise the awkward tonal shifts contained in the final stretches of this sentimental story.
Eden is released in UK cinemas on Friday 16th March 2007.