REVIEW: “THE NEST” (2020) IFC FILMS

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As “THE NEST” opens we find ourselves in 1980’s upstate New York and watch “a day in the life” of the O’Hara’s, a seemingly pleasant family living a pleasant life. But this is writer-director Sean Durkin’s first feature film since the excellent and thought-provoking ‘MARCY MARTHA MAY MARLENE‘ in 2011, so we can well figure that all is not as first presented.

Jude Law stars as Rory O’Hara, a business man with big dreams – dreams far bigger than his work ethic parlays, though his wife Allison (Carrie Coon) might have a clue about. This husband and wife team couldn’t be more polar opposite. Where Rory is the charming big-talker salesman, Allison is a down-to-earth horse trainer who loves her life on her horse farm. Oona Roche plays her teenage daughter Samantha, and Charlie Shotwell is her younger half brother Benjamin. Durkin does a nice job with the family set-up in the first few minutes of the film. We get a sense of each, as well as the family dynamics. But clearly something is amiss as we pan to a shot of Rory sitting idly at his desk, and soon after he wakes up Allison with a cup of coffee and the announcement that they need to move to London because he just isn’t satisfied and has been offered a job back as a higher up in his old bosses trading company.

It’s hard here to pinpoint at times exactly whom the story is about as is it about Rory’s desperation to prove his business acumen as he reeks of desperation when he meets his old (now new again) boss Arthur (Michael Culkin). You see, Rory is a social climber, intent on keeping up with the Joneses and living way beyond his means. He’s even referred to as “Old British – New American” which somehow he takes it as a compliment, but we soon witness Rory as little more than a fast-talking salesman. Or is it about Allison clear unhappiness being stuck out in rural Surrey in one of those huge, cold and drafty 17th Century castle type places that you just know is haunted. But this isn’t a scary movie though they do give you a pause with one scene. It could also be about the kids as Benjamin is not adjusting well and Samantha might be adjusting too well. But this is a story of a families dimensions playing out in front of us. A restaurant scene featuring Allison, Rory, and his co-worker Steve (Adeel Akhtar) is brilliantly played, as we watch as Rory’s professional life slowly begins to crumble and unravel at a pace matching that of his family life.

The film is set in the 1980’s Reagan-Thatcher era, and 1980s music is a-plentiful including the Thompson Twins, the Cure, and many others which is a particular delight for me. Jude Law picked an excellent vehicle for himself here as he plays the role as if its his, and the same goes for Carrie Coon. Beware though as there are a difficult few scenes in the movie involving horses that you may find difficult to stomach – be prepared to look away.

All in all, you come to realize this could be a story about so many different aspects involving a family in crisis mode that it is really just about all of them and not just a single member. It’s classified as a Drama/Romance though I would truly hesitate by putting this in only two such categories as it’s definitely up to the viewer to define this. The ending is a bit abrupt, but it works in the line of the story telling here. Will it be a story for everyone, no it won’t, but none ever are.

Grade: B

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Review screening: Courtesy of IFC Films

“THE NEST” IS NOW PLAYING IN THEATERS (WHERE OPEN) & DRIVE-INS AND ON VOD.