For his first feature since his brilliant 2011 debut, Martha Marcy May Marlene, director Sean Durkin leaves cults behind and explores a different kind of horror: the disintegration of the family unit.
Set in the 1980s, The Nest sees smarmy British financier Rory (Jude Law) talk his American wife Allison (Carrie Coon) into moving to his native England with their children. Once the move done, the family starts to fall apart… It’s a tense examination on family that doubles up as a deceptively nuanced portrait of class seen through clashing cultures (“In America, everybody believes they can be anything; here, you have to settle for the station you’re born into.”). Law delivers a strong performance as the ingratiating smooth-talker who attempts to mask his obvious insecurities and depression behind layers of reckless preening, but it’s Coon who impresses the most: she is superb as a misled, headstrong and repressed woman who gradually wakes up to the noxious stranglehold the American Dream has on her husband’s psyche and, beyond that, to the toxic posturing of her privilege.
Beyond the stellar performances, Durkin once again proves to be a masterful crafter of queasy unease that suggests darker layers are lurking behind the facades we’re shown. The drama feels like it’s constantly threatening to turn into a haunted-house chiller, as Durkin and cinematographer Mátyás Erdély (Son of Saul, Sunset) use the grammar of the horror genre as well as slow zooms, symmetrical still shots and engulfingly gloomy compositions. All of this enriches a very human nightmare: a life built on (self)deceit gradually crumbling beneath one’s feet with, maybe, the faintest the possibility of hope.
The Nest / Directed by Sean Durkin (Canada, 2020), with Jude Law, Carrie Coon. Starts July 8.