Jude Law and Carrie Coon shine in this steady, moody meditation on an evolving marriage and landscape.
Synopsis: Charismatic entrepreneur, Rory, relocates his family to England with dreams of profiting from booming 1980’s London. But as his wife, Allison, struggles to adapt, and the promise of a lucrative new beginning starts to unravel, the couple have to face the unwelcome truths lying beneath the surface of their marriage.
Sean Durkin may not explicitly make horror films, although his first feature Martha Marcy May Marlene and his television work Southcliffe certainly handle dark, disturbing material in a way that often echoes the composition of horror films, without ever allowing for the kind of release that they can provide. This restraint is used to almost unbearably awkward effect in The Nest, building on atmosphere without much concern for resolution, which will likely divide responses to this.
Rory (Jude Law) is a man between two worlds. He has made his career in America and intends to use his stateside thinking to shake up the English scene. He moves his wife Allison (Carrie Coon), plus children Sam (Oona Roche) and Ben (Charlie Shotwell) to a country manor, allowing Allison to keep her horse, but soon their surroundings begin to place a strain on the entire family unit.
The Nest is a film always on the cusp of passionate outburst and though it does find it occasionally in spectacularly disquieting fashion, there is a muted, cut-off quality to it for much of the runtime. A scene in which Allison dances would be played on as a cathartic moment and dwelled upon in many other films, but Durkin’s steady hand chooses to drop out as the music swells. When scenes are allowed to ascend to melodramatic heights the result is deeply uncomfortable, playing out in agonising, affecting detail.
Jude Law and Carrie Coon’s performances provide the spark that allows the rest of the film to drift without providing those moments. Rory and Allison are passionate, but increasingly tetchy with one another as their new life leaves much to be desired. The clash between 1980s England and America is echoed in the marital tension. A highlight is an excruciatingly uncomfortable argument in a restaurant, but in keeping with the film’s overall tone, this cuts off before becoming too explosive. The pace of the film allows both performers to fully inhabit their roles, drawing out nuanced moments that add depth. Charlie Shotwell’s Ben casts an increasingly anxious shadow as the youngest of the family, buckling under the pressure of changes and Oona Roche adds a delicacy to an otherwise typical rebellious teen role.
The film itself is beautiful and there is a real confidence to the way it handles both interior and exterior space. From the outset, wide shots slowly zoom in, giving the impression that you are intruding on events and conversations that you should not be involved in. A notable scene takes place in the early hours of the morning – not quite day and not quite night, enhancing the emotional turmoil of the scene considerably. It stands out amongst the lusher lighting of the richer scenes before it in which details are important, closing down the world around the characters. The way the plot inches forward and denies the space for events to reach a peak will present a challenge to some viewers. The Nest is a film steadily picking at the stitches of the family, rather than pushing for specific plot points.
The Nest is a strong, frequently uncomfortable drama about the pain of unearthing truths, supported by incredible performances.
4 out of 5 stars
The Nest is in UK cinemas from August 27th.