The Nest – Sundance London Film Festival 2021 – Film Review
The sizzling chemistry between the leading roles portrayed by Carrie Coon and Jude Law is an intoxicating feature within The Nest as part of its tribute to the worship of capitalism. The Nest extracts a career defining performance from Jude Law with its power dynamics and contrast between the cosiness of Californian life compared to a rigid atmosphere within 1980s Britain when Rory uprooted his family from the US to London to pursue his career ambitions. However, the transition is not smooth and this taut film unravels itself in a similar fashion to a suspense filled horror as the family’s carefully constructed rituals are overwhelmed and undermined. The Nest is thus a grippingly excellent web of psychological tension that is delicious to watch and remains compelling from start to finish.
Sinister tones underpin The Nest despite its focus on a close-knit family. There is an imposing house, a muted colour palette and even the opening title’s font resemble a horror film reminiscent of The Omen despite the focus on the mundane everyday activities that the family undertakes. This is where the magic lies in The Nest as tremendous weight is placed upon the concept of observation with tense glances used as weapons and the film conveys each family member’s perspective. The family maintains a polished veneer to the outside world and even to each other, to a degree, but Rory’s world, played impressively by Law, starts to crumble as the façade fades.
The degree to which Rory’s wife Allison, impressively played by Coon, is complicit in maintaining the illusion is an intriguing development. Her mother tells her that it is not her role to question the affairs of the house thereby highlighting the inferior position of women during such period. The Nest is effectively a portrait of that era as a period piece which subtly also manages to straddle class divisions within its tight structure. Director Sean Durkin’s second feature is as enticing as his debut Martha Marcy May Marlene and again he displays his masterful direction. Scenes depicting the reversal of the power dynamics between the husband and wife as they sit at opposing ends on a long table feel delightfully Shakespearean. The couple’s body language revealing a change in circumstance, as Rory’s lies catch up with him, is a marvel to view and would work extremely well on the stage.
Whilst nothing significant occurs in The Nest, it is brilliantly simple in its execution as Durkin explores the human condition through the societal practices and rituals we undertake in a quest for success. The Nest questions that meaning of ‘success’ with scenes depicting the ‘greed is good’ financial philosophy of the 80s and the competition within the UK and the US to be the dominant market players. The Nest subtly judges this working ethos and successfully pits this corporate, sterile world against the warm familial background. In essence, Durkin is examining the contrasts between the masculine and feminine world evident in the past. As such, Rory and Allison’s differing focus on relationships is held up to scrutiny by Durkin in this portrait of a desperate man and the question of progress between the two countries.
Carrie Coon truly steals the show with a standout performance as Allison who, whilst accompanying Rory at dinner, is reduced to being referred to as Mrs Rory. Women were essentially expected to be seen and not heard which is successfully depicted within Durkin’s sharp observation of life during 80s Britain. Coon’s character fortunately develops a steely personality throughout and is mesmerising to watch during this self-discovery particularly when dancing as if no-one is watching. Her role slowly evolves to be that of a disruptor rather than a participant within the British social norms which may also be a nod to the subtle distinctions between British and American society to which the film alludes under Durkin’s direction.
Durkin’s multi-faceted tale of deceit is an engrossing analysis and commentary on the seductive nature of the lies we tell ourselves and others. The Nest also offers a critique of class constructs and the lack of social mobility. The film’s strength lies in its character study as well as its questioning of the various measures of success. The Nest encourages its audience to undertake that introspection as to what success truly means and the state of life once our career success has eroded. The Nest provides a rich tapestry with its lingering long takes and subtle psychological commentary which is ultimately unsettling. But, The Nest resonates despite a bleak portrayal of a devastated man. Effectively, Durkin illustrates the power of family solidarity in The Nest as that reminder that no-one is an island and that it is not a sign of weakness to receive help.