Carrie Coon and Jude Law expertly lead a solid supporting cast free of weak links in this tale of an apparently affluent ‘80s family with a few expanding cracks in their foundation. If you go into this expecting traditional frights of thrills of any kind you’ll probably be alternatively bored and disappointed, so don’t do that. This one’s more about the horrors of a seemingly happy and well-off family slowly deteriorating under the weight of expectation.
Rory (Jude Law), Allison (Carrie Coon), teenage daughter Samantha (Oona Roche), and young son Benjamin (Charlie Shotwell) appear to be living the 1980s American dream with a lovely home, private pool, a couple nice cars, a horse–Richmond–Allison both loves dearly & uses to train clients, and an all-around enjoyable existence. Everything goes out the window when commodities broker Rory accepts a job back in England under old mentor Arthur (Michael Culkin) without much by way of family discussion, to Allison’s dismay. It’s evidently his choice to make as The Man of the household and theirs to live with as his family unit, per Allison’s mother (Wendy Crewson), so off they all go across the pond to start a new life. The stability, family, and purpose once shared becomes inundated with increasing deception as Allison, Rory, Samantha, Benjamin, and Richmond fall further into solitude and unhappiness. How much of this can Allison and her family take before enough is enough?
The biggest takeaways from The Nest are easily the lead performances from Carrie Coon and Jude Law, top-notch direction by Sean Durkin (who’s also the writer), and the ‘80s setting gloriously brought to life without being in-your-face or there to laugh at. Oona Roche as teen daughter Samantha also stood out to me as someone to keep an eye out for in the future. Samantha isn’t a needless bitch or mindless ditz, a couple standard templates for many teenage girls on film, and Roche proves quite capable of going toe-to-toe with the more seasoned and repeatedly excellent Coon & Law.
I have to linger on Carrie Coon and Jude Law briefly, because those two performances are damn near perfect. Honestly, I can’t think of anything to criticize in regards to either of them and that says a lot for me! Both of them should be prominently featured in any year-end acting accolades, if quality ends up being more relevant than popularity (not always the case when it comes to awards shows). They each bring such fully realized, complex people to life without the aid of narration, flashbacks, or anything by way of lame narrative crutch. You learn who they are through their actions, dialogues, and eyes that convey volumes of emotion & backstory. There’s a dinner scene with the pair of them at one point I wish went on a good while longer, if only to observe the interesting dynamic play out further.
The Nest’s direction, editing, sound mixing, and score wonderfully support the character-based screenplay more interested in who these people are and why they do what they do as opposed to unnecessary plot complications, though there is eventually a bit of “what does it mean?” oddness and a ‘70s-esque denouement that might rub some the wrong way. Richmond, Allison’s horse, gets a good deal of screen time as well and feels as much a character as anyone else in the family which I appreciate as an animal lover. Going back to the setting a moment, as someone who remembers the prevalence of cigarettes I enjoyed the realistic abundance of smokers and ashtrays from home to work to restaurants to anywhere and everywhere. Also, the husband knows best mindset of the times features prominently whether Allison finds herself in America or England, talking to strangers (who introduce her as Mrs. Rory O’Hara) or her own mother (“these are [Rory’s] decisions, just accept that”).
So, would I recommend The Nest? Hard yes. As I said before, though, this isn’t a scary movie but more of an impeccably performed and executed character-focused drama.
9 out of 10 Deteriorating Families
The Nest – Available September 18 on digital & demand.
Adem lives with his husband, dog(s), & cat(s) in an Arizonian city where any time not spent with/on the previously mentioned creatures is filled with writing, rowing, baking, and whatever else the day brings.