(director/writer: Sean Durkin; cinematographer: Mátyás Erdély; editor: Matthew Hannam; music: Richard Reed; cast: Jude Law (Rory O’Hara), Carrie Coon (Allison O’Hara), Charlie Shotwell (Benjamin O’Hara), Oona Roche (Samantha O’Hara), Adeel Akhtar (Steve), Michael Culkin (Arthur Davis); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Amy Jackson, Christina Piovesan; FilmNation; 2020-UK/Canada)
“A curious and disturbing family drama.”
Auteur Sean Durkin was born in Canada, moved to England and finally landed in New York. In 2011, Durkin’s first feature, the psychodrama “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” was a hit at Sundance and he won a directing award. This is his first film since, and is much anticipated by cinephiles. While absent from the Big Screen, Durkin directed the unsettling British miniseries Southcliffe.
The Nest is a curious and disturbing family drama, that uses the director’s experiences as a world traveler to frame its narrative. It’s set in the 1980s, where the O’Haras- the Brit born smooth talking business entrepreneur Rory (Jude Law), his loyal American wife Allison (Carrie Coon), his children Sam (Oona Roche) and Ben (Charlie Shotwell)- are moving from their modest suburban American home to live in the UK.
Rory’s wife is reluctant to move, having moved four times already in the past 10 years. But her ambitious and very confident hubby, a commodities broker, figures on getting financial opportunities over there he can’t resist. So they relocate to an ostentatious country mansion in Surrey, a place well beyond their means. But he yearns for more wealth and to be an even better provider for his family than he already is. This psychological need for excessive material gain might have been sparked by his being raised by working-class parents who were rather limited in income. But he now seems to be on the wrong track by trying to give his family more wealth rather than the loving support they really need, as the family gets pushed into a financial bind that is too much for them to handle.
This is the set-up for the inevitable downfall of the obsessed financier.
Rory’s strong-willed wife senses her control-freak husband has become too big for his britches and in the film’s most dramatic moments she gets up enough nerve to challenge the patriarch’s ambitions as something reckless for the family.
The slow moving film requires a viewer willing to be patient for it to be resolved in the third act, as the household tensions build to a resolution. It has some surprises and leaves us with questions about the well-being of the family. For those who stick it out, the reward is in taking in a well-constructed intelligent film with seemingly conflicted real people rarely seen in most relationships films.
The Hungarian cinematographer Mátyás Erdély enticingly photographs the pic as if it were a haunted house story, which is in tune with the way the director sees his domestic drama unfolding.
REVIEWED ON 2/2/2020 GRADE: A-