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Film Review: “The Nest” Is Worth Its Occasionally Frustrating Buildup

Written by: Hannah Tran | September 17th, 2020

Film poster: “The Nest”

The Nest (Sean Durkin, 2020) 3½ out of 4 stars.

When did having everything become not enough? In the latest film from director Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene), we see a family fall apart over this question as British-born entrepreneur, Rory, relocates his American wife Allison and their children to 1980’s England in pursuit of something “more” at his old firm. Unsurprisingly, both his dream and his family begin to crumble amid the conflict between differing definitions of familial and financial happiness. A rousing exploration of the toxicity of the American dream, the cultural gap of gender roles and the effects of globalization, The Nest is a smart encapsulation of these dilemmas and a dark reminder of the ways they still endure.

The Nest fully dives into the concepts of the cultural gaps between gender roles in marriage, class hierarchy and the purpose of the family unit. And without the genuinely standout acting from its central cast, these messages would be far less memorable. In particular, Jude Law (Captain Marvel) and Carrie Coon (Gone Girl), as Rory and Allison, the heads of the family, give two extraordinarily naturalistic and tragic performances that perfectly understand the conflict of their attraction and the shifting power dynamic between them that is magnified by their time apart. Paired with the rich cinematography, a perfectly selected tracklist of ’80s pop classics and a mesmerizing score by Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Perry, every element of The Nest transports you to a time often portrayed with nostalgia, but here representing the anxieties of a capitalistic world in the midst of financial crash.

Jude Law as “Rory” and Carrie Coon as “Allison” in Sean Durkin’s THE NEST. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films Release.

But while all these horrors are narratively present, Durkin’s instinct to make them feel visually and tonally present by utilizing techniques of the thriller and horror genres can occasionally feel somewhat distracting. Some of the more explicitly mysterious or horrific scenes and elements that the movie presents seem too rare and tertiary to the primary narrative. Thus, they end up feeling forgettable and meaningless in the grander scheme of the narrative.

And while it is certainly a unique approach that aptly characterizes the feelings of its characters, it is bound to feel mildly disappointing to its audience in that its meditative form feels almost like a red herring after its conclusion. Nevertheless, it is easy to understand the reasons behind the various tonal and visual approaches in The Nest. In retrospect, each element is perfectly attuned to observe the strange but realistic downfall of a family let down by the modern American definition of success in a way that is equally just as strange, realistic and uniquely intelligent.

Jude Law as “Rory” in Sean Durkin’s THE NEST. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films Release.

Hannah Tran is a film critic and filmmaker from Las Vegas, Nevada. Hannah works as a film screener for the Las Vegas Film Festival and publishes an independent zine focused on highlighing Asian American filmmaking.

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