In The Nest, writer/director Sean Durkin’s first feature since the acclaimed Martha Marcy May Marlene, Rory (Jude Law) is brash British smoothie who trades commodities and talks big, who’s married to an earthy American horse girl named Allison (played by the luminescent Carrie Coon) who loves to needle him. They initially seem more or less content in their bougie existence — training horses, trading stocks, playing with the kids in a respectable back yard — until one day Rory engineers his young family’s move across the pond to a big old house in Surrey.
It’s all great at first — they move into a giant mansion with floors built in the 1700s, with a private soccer pitch in back for their 11-year-old son and room to build a horse stable for Allison. But it doesn’t take long before the cracks begin to appear, and it All Starts to Go Wrong. Let this be a lesson, kids. England: not even once.
Rory is a terminal bullshitter; Allison an incorrigible ball buster, and The Nest brings their tension up to a constant simmer. It’s hard not to enjoy these actors playing tit for tat, and Durkin can compose a hell of a scene. Meanwhile, the kids start having problems, and soon even the horse is having issues. Is it the supernatural at work? Is it a magical horse? A metaphor horse?
The Nest crackles with compelling scenes, but I couldn’t help wishing for a crescendo that never quite came. Set in the eighties, Rory had moved his family supposedly to ride the wave of Reagan-era deregulation and get in on the ground floor before the inevitable mega mergers. Mainly he’s a phony schemer who dreams big and ignores the details — a real fake-it-till-you-make-it type, to his detriment.
Thus it’s sort of an open question why this had to be set in the eighties. Are there not sociopathic finance guys and horse-loving women now? If The Nest was meant to portray a critical transitional period, I’m not sure what comes through. Ditto the family drama. The Nest maintains a constant tension but when it finally boils over, the scene intended as the “big reveal” left me scratching my head a little. That damned metaphor horse again, I can lead him to water but I can’t figure out what he means.
Lack of resolution aside, The Nest is a fine adult drama and Carrie Coon, as always, is a once-in-a-generation talent.
The Nest is currently playing Sundance. No release date yet. Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can access his archive of reviews here.