Ten years after his acclaimed debut Martha Marcy May Marlene, Sean Durkin returns to UK cinemas with The Nest, a drama starring Jude Law and Carrie Coon. Premiering at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, The Nest takes place in the 1980s, when British trader Rory (Law) talks his American wife Allison (Coon) into uprooting their family to the UK due to the lack of jobs in New York. He quickly settles them into a huge mansion in Surrey and their children into private school, but it doesn’t long before cracks start to form.
Thanks to Coon’s compelling performance, we see things fall apart through Allison’s eyes. She is momentarily assuaged by an expensive fur coat and a seemingly lavish lifestyle in the countryside, but Durkin subtly weaves in the narrative’s reality check when she slowly discovers the depths of Rory’s deception. By the time Allison suffers a personal loss and the lack of her husband’s empathy is evident, we all realise that this is not only a path ventured (at least) once already but a road with one unavoidable outcome. Unfortunately, most of the drama seems focused on Allison and Rory, making their children Sam (Roche) and Ben (Shotwell) somewhat casualties of The Nest‘s stunted narrative.
Behind the camera, Durkin brilliantly brews the family’s disdain through each character’s growing unhappiness in an empty, poorly lit house. Through clever use of spacing and lighting, he moulds the increasingly desolate home into the perfect setting for Rory and Allison’s accumulative tension to explode, allowing Law and Coon to enhance their portrayals of embittered spouses with snarky, resentment-fuelled dialogue.
Set in an era when the lack of internet meant that working remotely or abroad wasn’t a feasible option, moving is the most likely option for anyone looking for career progression. But for Rory, it is just another rash decision that serves nobody else’s needs but his own, and Allison is understandably frustrated – his plan marks their fourth move in ten years, and to move to another country – nay, continent – is a huge sacrifice. Although it looks like Rory wants to step up as the breadwinner, his desperation to be rich betrays his own materialistic and egotistical needs such as second homes and expensive restaurants. Therefore, he unsurprisingly distances himself from Allison (while playing the hardworking husband for appearances’ sake) and the welfare of his troubled children in pursuit of fortune. Whether Rory has good intentions or not is never really disclosed, but as we repeatedly see him use fast tricks and quick-rich schemes, we wonder whether he will learn the lifelong lesson: money can buy material things, but real happiness must be truly earned.
Overall, The Nest reminds audiences of ‘chasing the dream’ and the harsh realities that come with it. Although the plot is pretty mundane, Law and Coon makes this an engaging drama.
The Nest will open in cinemas across the UK on Friday 27th August.
Director: Sean Durkin
Stars: Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Charlie Shotwell, Oona Roche
Runtime: 107 minutes
Country: USA, UK, Canada