[Review] ‘THE NEST’ observes marriage with stinging honesty, houses dynamite pairing with Law and Coon

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Preston Barta // Features Editor

THE NEST

Rated R, 107 minutes.
Director: Sean Durkin
Cast: Carrie Coon, Jude Law, Oona Roche, Charlie Shotwell, Adeel Akhtar and Michael Culkin

How cinema examines a marriage’s most difficult questions can be incredibly tough to endure but simultaneously rewarding. Films such as MARRIAGE STORY, A SEPARATION, and A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE are just a few of the many works that challenge the subject matter and help us uncover the mysteries of love and loyalty. Everyone’s relationship is unique and may not mirror exactly what’s happening on the screen. Still, many surprising discoveries and healing can happen to couples who watch these movies and discuss them after.

Sean Durkin’s moving, unflinching, and devastating look at marriage and love gives you a lot to mull over. Anchored by Carrie Coon and Jude Law, who are remarkably and heartbreakingly exceptional in every scene, THE NEST reminds you of the fragility of love and the importance of communication and finding a comfortable work-life balance.

Durkin’s follow-up to his 2011 thriller MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, THE NEST impeccably shows how you can have all the riches in the world — a giant country manor, a stable of horses, and be married to the good looks of Jude Law and Carrie Coon — but will it buy you true happiness? As we all know, love is a little more complicated than that.

Law portrays Rory O’Hara, a hungry English businessman and former commodities broker. He and his wife, Allison (Coon), live in upstate New York, near Allison’s family, and have steady lives — well, for the most part. Allison raises horses and gives lessons to locals. Their children, Samantha (Oona Roche) and Ben (Charlie Shotwell), seem content with their individual pursuits. But Rory isn’t. The family routines are not enough for this man whose mind is still caught in the young man’s game of chasing big fish without thinking about the consequences. THE NEST is about learning what those consequences are.

Rory convinces his family to move to England, where they lease a manor fit for a horror movie and adopt the upper-class lifestyle. Will this whole charade stay together long enough for Rory to hurdle these financial cliffs, or will it fall apart and further splinter his union?

Like Rory, I’ve certainly questioned what I do for a living and desired more for myself. A lot of pressure is placed upon those with a breadwinner’s mentality. Rory is a living embodiment of that Will Smith quote, “We spend money that we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress people who do not care.” All you can think about are decimals and dollars and the back pats that follow success. It’s a dangerous mindset that has been explored before in movies, but there’s a rawness to Durkin’s explorations that breathe new (and scary) life into the material.

Let’s start with the way Durkin shoots his film. Cinematographer Mátyás Erdély (SON OF SAUL) gives the actors a certain amount of space in the frame that feels like their surroundings are consuming them entirely. Much like a horror film (or 2016’s under-appreciated JACKIE), the tension is comparable to a Jack-in-the-Box slowly cranking, and you can hardly bear to know when it’ll finally pop out.

Law turns in one of his most impressive performances yet, but it is Coon who runs away with the film as a woman embittered by her husband’s expectations for his family. Every glance and lifeless stare displays the torment Allison is undergoing to please Rory. She does her best to tuck away her true feelings and build a facade of happiness, but Durkin captures her daily happenings enough to inform the audience of what’s going on north of her eyes. Allison takes the kids to school (who are also emotionally confused) and tries to carve a new life out for herself. She doesn’t trust her husband to have complete control and even hides away money she earns by working on a neighbor’s farm.

THE NEST is love’s worst nightmare. It’s all the vows of a husband and wife coming undone. You hate to see these characters face these challenges, but they are hard lessons to observe, especially leading into the final moments. This isn’t a movie that tries to take it to a popcorn-chewing level. It’s a train wreck that gets under your skin. You can’t look away, and you shouldn’t. While the film tackles familiar themes, it’s a simple nudge to talk to your family and live outside your head.

Grade: A

THE NEST is now available across all cable and digital VOD platforms for rent.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.