September 18, 2020 The Nest (Movie Review)
From the acclaimed director of 2011’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, and starring Jude Law and Carrie Coon, The Nest arrives to select theaters on Friday, September 18, 2020 via IFC Films.
Similar in some ways to 1999’s iconic American Beauty, Writer-Director Sean Durkin’s (Mary Last Seen 2010, Martha Marcy May Marlene 2011) The Nest is a nuanced dissection of marriage. Set in the 1980s, the story follows Rory (Law: The Talented Mr. Ripley 1999, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows 2011), a hyper-ambitious former commodities trader with lofty dreams. Despite near-constant relocations over the past decade of their marriage, when an opportunity opens up at his old firm, he persuades his American wife, Allison (Coon: Gone Girl 2014, Avengers: Infinity War 2018), to leave New York for London.
However, the grandeur of the family’s new, centuries-old country manor cannot hide the tensions flaring inside its walls. Understandably, teenager Samantha (Oona Roche: Christmas, Again 2014, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel series) and ten-year-old Ben (Charlie Shotwell: Captain Fantastic 2016, Eli 2019) are struggling to adapt to their new life overseas, new schools and schedules, and the pressure of making a whole new friend set. Even Allison’s beloved horse Richmond appears to be struggling to come to grips with his new life in England.
Though as Rory fights to keep up appearances, he completely overlooks the needs of his family and the problems brewing back home. What follows is an intriguing look at marriage, the mind games we play with ourselves and our spouses, and the detrimental blows dealt to our relationships when we chase cheap thrills.
Top notch acting and flawless cinematography from Mátyás Erdély (Son of Saul 2015, Sunset 2018) certainly did not hurt the film’s reputation when it showed at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Not to be overlooked, Richard Reed Parry’s splendid original score—which also features some of the hits of the ‘80s from the likes of Heart, Thompson Twins, The Cure, New Order, and more—helps to maintain the story’s 1980s setting as it adds flourishes to the overall mood.
But it is truly the stellar ensemble cast who sell this sophisticated look at relationships. As a yin and yang in their life approaches, Law and Coon each deliver outstanding performances in their roles. Law’s Rory is the quintessential hype man: he shames his wife for being “risk-averse” as he blindly chases fantasies, shunning reality to maintain his carefully constructed façade. While he mocks the idea of the American dream, he has an entitled view of success; as though a humble upbringing is a promise of vast riches later in life.
In the lead role, Law is in his element: a talented actor who is able to easily communicate the fire in Rory’s blood when it comes to closing a huge deal or hobnobbing with the 1%. Yet the calculated avoidance he exhibits when his marriage and family life hit the rocks are far more nuanced, allowing viewers to see Law’s abilities to subtly communicate a character who is controlling, conniving, and self-centered enough to believe that simply by showing up he is Husband and Father of the Year. Driving home the idea that it’s easy to succeed in an upmarket, but not quite as easy to perform when the chips are down, Law is elegant in his portrayal.
Coon’s Allison is made fierce by her circumstances. A three-dimensional character, she is a mother who is often forgetful and late, a woman who passionately loves being outdoors with her horse, and someone who would much rather get her hands dirty on a farm than to saunter around the city in expensive fur. Her disgust with her husband’s charades is tangible, and the more he skirts his responsibilities at home and lies to suit his cause, the more assertive she becomes. In turn, the more that she steps forward, the angrier and more dismissive her husband becomes. It’s an unhealthy dynamic, but one that is all too prevalent in many marriages today.
But they are not the only two individuals who exist within their world, and many of the supporting characters provide deep insight into the multiple discussions happening within the film’s subtext. For example, Rory’s co-worker Steve (Adeel Akhtar: Four Lions 2010, The Big Sick 2017) is his friend’s perfect foil: a kindly, loyal trader who focuses on long-term stability over quick gains. Even their boss, Arthur Davis (Michael Culkin: The Crown series, A Very English Scandal mini-series), is similar in his eye for long-term investments and achievable potential over fickle flights of fancy. Though Anne Reid (The Mother 2003, Hot Fuzz 2007) and James Nelson-Joyce (The Rook series, The Sound of Philadelphia 2020) provide two of the most thought-provoking and succinct speeches in the film.
All of this said, the focus of The Nest is very much to dissect relationships, particularly what we project onto our partners and the mind games that we play with one another. With a surgical precision, Durkin opens up the layers of Rory and Allison’s marriage and allows his viewers to draw their own conclusions.
A sophisticated yet emotional tale of one upper-middle class every-couple, The Nest is almost guaranteed to bring home awards for its magnificently lush aesthetics, superb acting, and intelligent screenplay. For this, Cryptic Rock gives the film 4.5 of 5 stars.