James Jay Edwards reviews The Nest, a film by writer/director/producer Sean Durkin and starring Carrie Coon and Jude Law. (IFC Films)
As part of the filmmaking collective Borderline Films, writer/director/producer Sean Durkin crafted the haunting Martha Marcy May Marlene in 2011. Now, nine years later and without the help from his Borderline pals, Durkin steps back behind the camera with The Nest.
The Nest is about a British commodities broker named Rory O’Hara (Jude Law) who left the business world to live on a farm with his American wife, Allison (Carrie Coon), and their two children, Bennie (Charlie Shotwell) and Samantha (Oone Roche). When a big opportunity at his old firm back in England arises, Rory convinces Allison to move back across the pond, even leasing a luxurious country manor and building a horse stable on the land. Soon enough, Allison realizes that she’s not cut out for British high society, and that Rory isn’t the man she thought she married.
(The Nest, theatrical release poster, IFC Films)
Like Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Nest is a grim affair, especially for a movie that is supposed to be about a family getting a fresh start on life. Durkin has put together a film that is not outwardly horrifying, it’s just got an underlying feeling of dread that permeates every second. There’s always something sinister simmering just beneath the surface of the seemingly picture-perfect family.
The Nest is set in the mid-eighties, right before a big financial crash, and right at the height of British deregulation. So, for a movie that takes place in England, The Nest also says a lot about the American Dream, with Rory pining after money to ultimately make his family more comfortable. The other side of the coin is Allison, who, thrust into the role of being “just Rory’s wife” in their new surroundings, longs for her old life as a horse trainer—about as American of a career as one can imagine. When Rory and Allison clash over their hopes and dreams, their already fragile relationship starts to crumble.
(The Nest, IFC Films)
Carrie Coon and Jude Law are perfect at capturing the cracked foundation of the relationship. Their characters have that affection for each other that has gone stale, that worn-out memory of love that sticks around because there are kids involved. Neither trusts the other, and with good reason, but they keep the brave faces up for the sake of the family unit. The American Dream.
And the times are tough for the O’Haras. While The Nest isn’t technically a horror movie, or even a thriller really, it’s a disturbing watch. The crippled family dynamic coupled with the always-spooky British countryside makes it almost feel like a haunted house movie. Except the ghosts that haunt the O’Haras aren’t spirits, they’re very real emotions and realizations, and all of the bumps in the night happen in the harsh light of day.
(The Nest, IFC Films)
The Nest boils down to being a simple dysfunctional marriage movie. But the stakes are higher, so the drama is more intense. It’s triggering in several ways, but purposely so in order for Durkin to get a visceral reaction out of his audience. And get a visceral reaction he does. It’s a gut punch, but one that is well worth absorbing.