The Nest

In DVD/Blu-ray by Alex Moss Editor

The Nest is writer-director Sean Durkin’s first film, in nearly a decade, since his searing Martha Marcy May Marlene. And what is apparent almost from the very first frame is that Durkin is a filmmaker who has a unique style that brings his narratives to life in stunning ways.

Opportunities having dried up in America, Rory O’Hara (Jude Law) tells his wife Allison (Carrie Coon) he’s received an offer to return to England to work with his former mentor. At first resistant Allison agrees and the family, including Allison’s daughter (Oona Roche) and the couple’s son (Charlie Shotwell) head back to Blighty. Upon arrival it is revealed Rory has rented them a small mansion. As the family settle into their new lives Allison begins to realise that things are not quite as perfect as Rory would like to present.

As with his last directorial effort Durkin’s style is assured in what it wants to convey from the outset. This is a simple story of a family facing numerous setbacks but shot in a way that is often unsettling. There is a sense of horror language being used in the execution but it should be made clear, The Nest is not a horror.

Durkin immerses us in the O’Hara family, contrasting their American home of intimacy to their English home of isolation. For much of the film Durkin places his characters in a wide frame, making them feel small against the world around them, lingering shots that seem to push down on them, and in turn us, to the point of feeling deeply oppressed.

Imagine Kubrick’s The Shining, but without the horror, breakdowns and descent into madness. The Nest is an examination of a family unit whose knots are beginning to fray. A powerful motif Durkin uses is that of the family horse; at one point frustrated by being contained, then frolicking in a field but often on the cusp of frustration and losing control.

While Durkin holds the reins tight, never allowing the narrative to stray into anything flamboyant or forced, it is his stunning leads that carry us through this hypnotic journey. When he’s not being Hollywood’s latest defacto screen villain Jude Law continues to be an actor to revel in. His Rory is charming, suave and sophisticated but thanks to Law always a little insecure, hiding something that we’re unable to quite grasp. It’s easy to like Rory but hard to trust him. Meanwhile, Carrie Coon continues to be one of cinema’s most horribly underused talents. Here she is ethereal when gracing Rory’s arm, the glamorous wife of the successful businessman. But where she shines is in her role as mother and, despite Rory’s beliefs, leader of the O’Hara family. It’s the little nuances Coon injects into the character which creates such gravity. When training the horse she’s straight-backed, regal and powerful, when challenging her husband she’s stern, almost belligerent but throughout it all there is a combination of brewing anger and heartbreaking realisation. It is the kind of performance that should be widely celebrated come awards season.

A delicate and intimate story told with a bold cinematic language and white hot performances, The Nest is a film that resonates long in the mind after it has ended.