Sean Durkin‘s sophomore film, ‘The Nest‘ is an outstanding drama that often feels like it wants to dip its toes so desperately into thriller territory. Nine years ago, his first film ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene‘ decided to fully dive in to the latter genre, and with success. You can tell he’s grown as a director, but something’s missing.
Rory (Jude Law – ‘Captain Marvel‘), an ambitious entrepreneur and former commodities broker, persuades his American wife, Allison (Carrie Coon – ‘The Sinner‘), and their children to leave the comforts of suburban America and return to his native England during the 1980s. Sensing opportunity, Rory rejoins his former firm and leases a centuries-old country manor, with grounds for Allison’s horses and plans to build a stable. Soon the promise of a lucrative new beginning starts to unravel, the couple have to face the unwelcome truths lying beneath the surface of their marriage.
Opening in Ari Aster-style, ominous score and cinematography included, the atmosphere of the film gets established from the very first frame. Warm autumn colours and an 80s aesthetic give you a sense of comfort, but the smooth camerawork diverts from that by conjuring a discomfort that lies underneath. Even though this seemingly happy family has wonderful chemistry, there’s cracks shining through in simple gestures and reactions between one another. This isn’t your perfect American family, and that’ll become very clear when they get taken out of their natural habitat.
Law and Coon both give the best performance in years, and will without a doubt get noticed during upcoming awards season. Both play complete opposites, as Law perfects the fragile masculinity of his character, with Coon’s character pushing his buttons by rebelliously offending him in public. Where he tries to keep up appearances as he forces himself to come across as a tragic big shot, his wife sees through that facade and basically makes fun of it. Both actors get an equal amount of time to shine and really showcase their skills as actors.
The problem I had with this visually pleasing film, is that even though the film wants to give you that dreadful sense of a world collapsing in front of your eyes, it never fully goes there in my opinion. It hints at it, but often Durkin fills his film with unnecessary scenes that in the end don’t push his narrative to a cohesive whole, and rather makes you think why it was shown in the first place. Nonetheless, ‘The Nest‘ is a film that delivers on almost every level and with that, I can look past that “extra footage”.
As mentioned before, the cinematography is of another level, with detailed production design that transports you back to the 80s. With that comes an editing quality reminiscent of that of Lucian Johnston and Jennifer Lame in ‘Hereditary‘, where here Matthew Hannam knows how to stitch and transition scenes without having to fill any gaps. Richard Reed Parry‘s score and Mátyás Erdély‘s cinematography are besides Coon and Law’s acting, noteworthy achievements.
Durkin does a remarkable job at capturing the anxiety and detachment of a family transitioning into a new chapter in life. There are moments of sheer brilliance that prove he’s capable of directing something emotionally heavy, with room for improvement. ‘The Nest‘ doesn’t go for dysfunctional family clichés, but could’ve benefited from a tighter cut. An arresting sophomore film.
Review – ‘The Nest’
Reviewed online (screener provided by IFC Films), November 16, 2020. Rating: MA15+. Running time: 107 min.
PRODUCTION: An IFC Films release of an Element Pictures, BBC Films, Elevation Pictures, FilmNation Entertainment production. Producers: Rose Garnett, Ed Guiney, Amy Jackson, Andrew Lowe, Christina Piovesan, Derrin Schlesinger. Executive producers: Glen Basner, Ben Browning, Alison Cohen, Milan Popelka, Polly Stokes.
CREW: Director/screenplay: Sean Durkin. Editor: Matthew Hannam. Cinematography: Mátyás Erdély. Score: Richard Reed Parry.
WITH: Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Oona Roche, Charlie Shotwell.