by George Wolf
If you saw the quietly unnerving Martha Marcy May Marlene nine years ago and have had the name Sean Durkin filed away since then, you’re not alone. Good news for both of us then, as Durkin finally returns as writer and director with The Nest, another precisely crafted examination of family dynamics.
This time, though, it’s a nuclear family, one that’s slowly imploding before our eyes.
It is the late 80s, and hotshot commodities trader Rory O’Hara (Jude Law) has news for his wife Alison (Carrie Coon): they need to move. Business in New York is drying up, but his native London is “booming.” Alison isn’t loving the idea of uprooting their two kids – and her horse training business – for the fourth time in ten years, but can’t help but be impressed by the 15th century manor Rory has secured in the English countryside.
The place is legendary (“Led Zeppelin stayed here!”), and huge. And from the moment the O’Haras move in, the spaces between them only grow larger.
Though it lacks the sinister edge of MMMM, Durkin’s storytelling here still carries a chill, assembling precise details with a subtlety that often betrays a focused narrative. With a microscope trained on the minutiae of finding a work/life balance, Durkin gives his stellar leads plenty of room to dig indelible, often heartbreaking layers.
Law shows all the easy charm that makes Rory an office favorite, while slowing revealing the cracks in his entitled, high roller facade. Pretending can be harder to sustain than success, and Rory is wearing down.
And Alison – thanks to a wonderful performance from Coon – becomes the weary embodiment of a last nerve exposed. She’s facing the reality of who her husband really is – and grasping for the best way to react. Fortunately, not giving a fuck is one of the options, and Coon makes all of Alison’s frayed edges irresistible.
Still, even as this family breaks down before us like some sort of clinical exercise, Durkin brings a darkly humorous undercurrent to the O’Haras’ way forward that feels like a first step toward honesty.
A house isn’t always a home. The Nest may rarely be comfortable, but it’s strangely inviting, and once you’re inside, plenty hard to look away.