The Nest 2021 Movie Review
The Gist: Rory (Jude Law) and Allison (Carrie Coon) have a nice life. Or at least it seems that way. It’s the 1980s, and they live in a cozy home in New York with their children, teen Samantha (Oona Roche) and tween Benjamin (Charlie Shotwell). Sam is a gymnast, Ben loves soccer, and Allison spends her days working at stables and giving horseback riding lessons. Things aren’t particularly fancy or extraordinary, but they seem good – at least for everyone but Rory, who calls up an old business colleague in London and weasels his way into a job over there without consulting with his family first. He shares this news with Allison during their morning ritual of him bringing her coffee in bed, and she’s less than thrilled about the move, having believed that this would be their permanent home (it’s their fourth move in ten years). They go ahead with it, however, and the foursome soon finds themselves in a large old house in the English countryside.
Once somewhat settled, it doesn’t take long for the already-existing issues in their marriage to come to a head. Rory continues to bullshit his way through almost every interaction – both at work and at home, throwing money they don’t have at things they don’t need in pursuit of a life better than the one he had as a child. Money is hardly the worst of the issues between Rory and Allison, but it certainly doesn’t help things, and neither does the creepy house that seems to make it all worse. The Nest raises questions about marriage, family, and identity, and there are no easy answers.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: This heavy relationship-in-crisis film evokes flicks like Revolutionary Road, The Deep Blue Sea, and even Blue Valentine, but really feels most spiritually akin to rich, marriage-centric melodramas of the ’60s.
Performance Worth Watching: Coon and Law are truly at their best here – and Charlie Shotwell is simply extraordinary as young Benjamin – but Oona Roche’s performance as teen daughter Samantha is a standout. She’s more than just the angsty step-daughter, she’s a young adult much more perceptive to the tension and reality of their situation than anyone gives her credit for. The camera eats her up, particularly during her silent reactions to Rory and Allison’s fights and her mother’s conversations. It may be a quiet performance, but it’s a mesmerizing one. With a juicy role on The Morning Show already under her belt, Roche seems to only be getting started.
Memorable Dialogue: There are so many stunning exchanges over the course of The Nest‘s hour and 45 minutes, including a particularly on-the-nose (but weirdly perfect?) conversation between Rory and a cabbie later in the film. There was one tense back-and-forth between Allison and Samantha that I absolutely adored, though, if mainly because it included the zinger: “I don’t have to make choices, Mom. I’ll just find a man to make my choices for me.”
Our Take: It’s so rare that a drama like The Nest doesn’t try to hook you with some twist or special something; I initially kept waiting for it to turn into some kind of haunted house thriller, but instead, it takes a simpler – and more difficult – route. And it’s infinitely better and more interesting this way. The dread is coming from inside the house, inside the people in the house, and the stakes feel so much higher than they would otherwise because of it. I found myself awed by every patient scene, every lingering moment. The Nest clocks in at under two hours, but it feels longer – and I mean that as a compliment. The passage of time and events is strange and mesmerizing here, subtly devastating and utterly believable in its impact. Sean Durkin has created something profound and singular, evoking dramas of days past and telling a story all its own in the process. Every character – even the children, who could have easily fallen into stereotype territory – feels fully fleshed out, fully affected by the actions of each member in this family. It’s a story about the gradual destruction of a marriage, yes, but it’s also about the very real wreckage they leave in their wake. Every scene here has a ripple effect, every word an emotional toll.
Each scene of The Nest feels meaningful, even when there are very few words spoken; it’s tense, rich drama, the stuff of films from decades past. There is a pivotal fight scene between Rory and Allison that feels like a trip to the theater, but I mean that in the best way possible; rather than cutting between close-ups or dramatic angles, the camera lets the actors do all the work. They get in each other’s faces, they fully react, they breathe and think and feel. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in recent memory, and it shows a deep trust from the filmmaker in the performers. This is really the heart of The Nest, a film that doesn’t feel the need to dazzle or put on a display. At times, it almost feels like a series of increasingly tense vignettes, portraits of a family in crisis, of the way a series of small explosions leads to one nuclear in scale. Every development feels wholly earned, and the last scene – not a particularly loud or crazy one, but perhaps my favorite in the film – is a quiet conclusion, though not necessarily a resolution, a quietly astonishing finale few filmmakers ever attempt (and those that do rarely get right).
The Oscars will surely be wacky this year, but if Carrie Coon isn’t at the center of the Best Actress conversation, I’ll be extremely surprised. Very few performers ever approach doing what Coon does here; none of it feels like a performance, and that’s what’s so breathtaking about it. Every nervous cigarette, every frazzled strand of blonde hair, every lingering gaze – it all feels part of an actual person, a living, breathing woman who might as well be sitting across the table from you. Her roller coaster of emotions reaches out and rattles you. It’s a timeless performance, not one of a heroine or femme fatale or any other trope – one of a human being. And opposite Law, who is at his career-best here, it’s absolutely unstoppable. Their twisted match is one made in film heaven, producing something relentlessly engaging; you don’t necessarily root for either of them, but you also can’t look away. And that goes for the whole of The Nest; a film that is content to just be, one that grabs hold of you in a way you may hardly notice – and one that won’t let go for some time after.