“The Nest” unsettles us step by step in its calm but unnerving examination of a family being deteriorated under the toxic delusion of its untrustworthy patriarch. He keeps trying reaching for any big financial break, but it only becomes more apparent to us that he is mired in a grim situation way over his head while not recognizing it at all, and his family cannot look away from that anymore as sensing more of the mounting troubles he and they are going to face in one way or another.
At the beginning, the movie, which is set in the 1980s, observes their seemingly happy family life in a suburban area near New York City. While her British husband Rory (Jude Law) has worked as a trader in the city, Allison works a horseback riding coach at a nearby ranch, and we later watch them having a little nice dinner at their home along with their two children Benjamin (Charlie Shotwell) and Samantha (Oona Roche).
One day, Rory suddenly suggests to his wife that they and their kids should move to England. According to him, there have not been enough opportunities for his business career, and he believes that he and his family will be more affluent once he begins to work at a trading company in London where he once worked some time ago. Although she does not like moving to a new place after changing their residences no less than three times during last 10 years, Allison supports her husband’s decision, and their kids go along with that without much complaint.
Once Rory and Allison arrive in England along with their children and a horse bought for her, it looks like everything will work out well for his family as well as him. While he does not have much money now, Rory rents a big country manor in Surrey just because he thinks he will soon succeed as much as he hopes, and he also makes sure that his family look as affluent as possible. For example, he sends his children to expensive private schools, and he also begins the construction of a big stable for his wife outside the manor.
At his workplace, Rory is warmly welcomed by his old boss, and he and his wife later attend a party full of rich dudes on whom he is determined to make a good impression. It seems that all he has to do is persuading his old boss to accept a certain big, lucrative deal planned by him from the very beginning, which will surely change the trading company a lot in addition to making him much richer than before.
However, we also come to notice how fragile and unstable Rory and his family’s status is. While he keeps promising to his wife that there will soon be lots of money rolling into their hands, his family remain stuck in their new residence without much change or progress, and then there finally comes an inevitable moment when Allison belatedly comes to learn of how bad their financial situation really is.
What follows next is pretty much like watching a ship slowly and fatefully sinking below the waterline, and director/writer Sean Durkin steadily maintains the level of tension under the surface while subtly conveying to us the desperation and frustration surrounding the family in the film. Rory tries to maintain the status quo by any means necessary, but a series of pathetic attempts of his only remind us again of his delusional irresponsibility. During a brief scene involved with his estranged mother, it is implied to us that his hunger for wealth and respectability is originated from his unhappy childhood, and his mother still clearly sees through him no matter how much he tries to hide himself behind his superficial confidence.
In case of Rory’s family, we see more of how much Allison and her children have been fed up with him. Especially after one devastating incident, Allison becomes more tired of her husband’s empty promises, and that leads to a bitter and angry argument between them at one point later in the story. Not oblivious to what is going on between their parents at all, Samantha and Benjamin have to deal with each own pain and resentment, and we are not so surprised when Samantha decides to do something quite wild and rebellious along with local kids at the manor.
Durkin’s competent storytelling continues to hold our attention to the end, and his two lead performers are fabulous as a couple slowly imploding behind their cracking façade. Jude Law, who is no stranger to banally confident characters, is superb especially during a little personal moment when his character reveals his overwhelming desperation to a stranger, and Carrie Coon, a wonderful actress who needs more recognition in my humble opinion, is an equal acting match for her co-star during several key scenes between them. As the two other family members in the film, Charlie Shotwell and Oona Roche hold well each own small spot around Law and Coon, and the other supporting performers including Michael Culkin, Ann Reid, and Adeel Akhtar are also solid in their respective roles.
Overall, “The Nest”, which is incidentally Durkin’s second feature film after his remarkable debut feature film “Martha Marcy May Marlene” (2011), is a dark but undeniably compelling family drama, and its deliberately ambiguous final scene will linger on your mind for a while. Regardless of whatever will happen next to them, their problem is fully exposed and recognized at last, and that is a good start, isn’t it?