VOD film review: The Nest (2020)
James R | On 09, Jan 2022
Director: Sean Durkin
Cast: Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Adeel Akhtar
Is there anyone better than Jude Law at smiling in a way that’s absolutely sincere yet hauntingly hollow? He delivers one of the best turns of his career in The Nest, Sean Durkin’s nail-biting 1980s tale of a family slowly going into free fall.
Law plays Rory O’Hara, a commodities trader who long ago left his life in the UK to make a fortune in the New York stock market. But when his old boss offers him a job back in London, he returns with an eye to make a fortune on the deregulation that’s in the air. Joining him are his wife, Allison (Carrie Coon), daughter, Sam (Oona Roche), and son, Ben (Charlie Shotwell), and they move into an 18th-century manor in Surrey that he’s leased for a year with the option to buy.
If that sounds like a dud deal, that’s because Rory’s life is built on such arrangements, as he puts on a successful front to everyone regardless of the truth – including his family. Moments in which he reconnects with former colleague Steve (the always-superb Adeel Akhtar) teeter between stock brokers blowing hot air and sour resentment simmering under the surface of a polite work friendship. Scenes at home aren’t any more comfortable, as Allison begins to realise the reality of what’s going on, Ben withdraws into himself and Sam gets caught up with a bad crowd.
It’s been a decade since Sean Durkin’s last film, his remarkable debut Martha Marcy May Marlene, but he’s lost none of his ability to twist and turn a film’s mood with chilling precision. And so what begins as an intense family tale slips seamlessly into something much more unnerving, to the point where you expect something supernatural or violent to creep out from behind the house’s atmospheric, empty halls. In one scene the quartet all talk to each from different levels of the expansive staircase and they could almost each be in their own movie, ranging from domestic drama to psychological horror. Underneath the creepily slow camera movements and unflinching close-ups, Richard Reed Parry’s jazzy elevator score spirals into growing discord. It’s like unearthing a lost work by JG Ballard.
But the heart of this riveting, unsettling chamber piece is Law’s paint-peeling performance that gradually strips away any glossy showmanship to reveal a grimacing mask. Carrie Coon matches him every step, her initially frustrated woman of the house descending into icy loathing. Even a cameo appearance by Anne Reid as Rory’s estrange mother offers no familial warmth, while the introduction of Chekhov’s horse adds an ominous air to the frosty proceedings.
The result is a nerve-jangling dissection of greed and capitalism, one that could have opted for darkly comic satire but instead plumbs the depths of internalised fears of rising living costs, aspirational consumerism and superficial facades being exposed. Always leaving you wondering whether it’ll tip into horror territory, the only ghost lingering in the closet is the spectre of social inequality to come.