It’s been years since Sean Durkin’s feature length debut Martha Marcy May Marlene, a chilling tale of a woman adjusting to normal life after escaping a murderous cult. In The Nest, we have a woman in an all-too-similar situation, though the threat is not so much a cult but a husband whose ambition far outstrips his ability. The Nest pairs Jude Law with The Leftovers’ Carrie Coon (who should have an Emmy) to explore what happens to a family when it is placed under incredible stress in a massive, run-down British manor. Law and Coon take troubled marriage material that may seem overdone and elevate it to incredibly cathartic levels of bile and fury. The Nest is one of the year’s best features, and I hope to be able to see it on a big screen whenever that’s safe.
One morning in 1980s America, ambitious entrepreneur Rory (Law), excitedly tells his wife Allison (Coon) that a new job opportunity awaits him in his home country of England. Though Allison is hesitant– this would be their fourth move in ten years– she relents. The family, including daughter Sam (Oona Roche) and Ben (Charlie Shotwell), arrive soon after at their new home, a huge estate in the English countryside. Though initially enthusiastic, Allison begins to realize the house is far too large for the four of them, and Rory may have been exaggerating about the potential lucrativity of his new job. What follows is the near-undoing of a family, as each member faces a different sort of annihilation as the house threatens to swallow them all home.
Now, I don’t want you to walk away from this review thinking this is Monster House. There are no supernatural elements in The Nest, except perhaps the spells of suggestion Rory attempts on his business partners to varying levels of success. Maybe the relationship between Rory and Allison is a curse, based on Carrie Coon’s absolutely venomous line readings and Law’s effortless ricochet between slimy and pathetic. Durkin’s direction is at the very least hypnotic – this is one of the few films I’ve watched during the pandemic that kept me away from my phone. Though dark, I had no trouble following scenes deep in the estate or in a hazy bar with a killer ‘80s soundtrack.
Like Martha Marcy May Marlene, this is not a film where things get better or morale improves. The Nest is a bleak look at two people who should probably leave each other, and the children that feel their father’s neglect. Despite that, it is genuinely fun when Coon turns on her powerful sardonic tone and tongue lashes Law into submission. I was delighted by this marriage’s disintegration, possibly because I haven’t found myself in this perilous situation and hopefully never will!
Dir. Sean Durkin
Opens 9/18 at Kendall Landmark Cinemas and on VOD.
Right now Boston’s most beloved theaters need your help to survive. If you have the means, the Hassle strongly recommends making a donation, purchasing a gift card, or becoming a member at the Brattle Theatre, Coolidge Corner Theatre, and/or the Somerville Theatre. Keep film alive, y’all.