Review by Mia Sherry
“You’re just a poor kid pretending to be rich.” So spits Carrie Coon’s icy matriarch Allison to her husband Rory (Jude Law). Sean Durkin’s The Nest is summed up in so many words, but don’t let that put you off– the deliciously lavish story of dizzying wealth to bare-knuckled poverty is as enjoyable for its performances as it is for its generic but equally as enjoyable story.
The Nest follows Rory and Allison as they uproot their family from the utopian suburbia of East Coast America to Surrey, England. Rory is a business man whose previous luck in the stocks is beginning to dwindle and Allison is an equestrian trainer; their lives are filled with the casual luxuriance of the economically comfortable– modest backyard pools and horses and French press and industrious but vague connections “across the pond”. However, their move to Surrey turns what presents itself to be a run of the mill family drama to the most fantastical mix of The Amityville Horror meets The Great Gatsby.
This yuppie horror– a delightful concoction that dabbles between the supernatural and gender roles and economic classicism– is a slow but tension filled burn that epitomises the “show don’t tell” approach that Durkin has mastered in previous films like Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011). Durkin’s experiments in silence and sound with both inventiveness and flashy showiness pays off; instead of being a shallow attempt at subversiveness, The Nest’s soundscape is one of its strongest stylistic features. As for the humongous Surrey mansion in which The Nest is based, there is surprisingly little made of its cavernous size– but when the camera does turn inwards to its hallowed halls what results is some of the most memorable moments the film offers; as Durkin lurks into its corners and shadows.
It’s hard not to watch The Nest and look at Rory as some kind of kind of continuation of the kinds of characters that dominated Law’s early career– Dickie in The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella, 1999) and Brad in I Heart Huckabees (David O. Russel, 2004). Alas, the tables have turned for the Talented Mr. Greenleaf in this Pinteresque saga, but Law’s downfall into poverty is no less enjoyable to watch. However, his performance is not only complimented but bolstered by Coon’s presence– the same emotional coolness that left her mark on The Leftovers is equally as intriguing to watch alongside Law as the life they knew crumbles around them.
The Nest is a truly wonderful film with a kind of narrative lushness that harkens back to the days of yore. Partially a horror, partially a drama and largely an eagle eyed critique of classicism and misogyny in 80’s London, The Nest is one of those films where the less you know, the better– just let yourself be carried away to the English countryside. It might not be a happy story, but it surely is an exhilarating one.