Updated: Sep 23, 2020
I was able to watch this film in the safety of my home thanks to getting an online screener link from the studio, a privilege many do not get. Considering the current coronavirus pandemic and the dangers it still presents, I do not endorse you returning to movie theaters at this time.
Sean Durkin finally follows up his breakthrough film, Martha Marcy May Marlene, nine years after making a splash at Sundance. The Nest is a slow burn drama with elements of horror. No there isn't a masked murderer or any murders for that matter. The film has the feel of a haunted house story minus the bumps in the night. The skill that made Durkin's debut so magnetic is here again as we watch a family nearly get swallowed up by the giant house they inhabit.
The Nest follows patriarch Rory (Jude Law) as he decides to move his family from the United States to London to rejoin the firm he left years before. Set in the 1980s, the film has a detailed sense of place. The house that Rory, his wife Allison (Carrie Coon) and their two kids move into is constantly framed in a way to dwarf its inhabitants. This creates a mysterious dread-like feeling as we see the cracks begin to show in what should be the perfect nuclear family. Rory wants to live above his means. Allison even calls him out for being a poor boy playing rich in one of their arguments that populate the film. His ambition to present himself and his family as rich eats away at his relationship with her. She can't pretend alongside him.
In many ways, Allison is the opposite of Rory. He is constantly schmoozing and hunting for the next deal, she is more than happy to shovel dung on a neighbors farm. As the film goes on, their differences become hard to ignore. This affects their children who hear them fighting often and know that something is wrong. Their daughter begins to act out as her home becomes a battleground.
Durkin's script combined with Coon and Law's performances creates some incredibly deep characters here. They are complex in a way that makes them memorable. Law has rarely been better and Coon steals every moment she is on screen. They collectively trace the growing rift between this married couple. Each beat expertly traces the steps to them moving apart. The dialogue is honest and often filled with bursts of humor.
The Nest is a unique film. The central performances are stunning and the film is shot with ominous horror film language. The house in the film feels like it is going to eat this family up. The visual language supports the story in startling ways. While the pacing is slow and the dour nature of the film may not be for everyone, The Nest is well worth checking out. In its final moments, it gives us a tender and sweet scene that feels honest, earned, and needed. It is a great ending to a special film.