Writer and director Sean Durkin made an impact with his acclaimed cult thriller debut Martha Marcy May Marlene, and remarkably, a decade has gone by since. His long overdue sophomore effort is psychological relationship drama The Nest, which explores the gradual decline of a middle-class marriage.
Rory O’Hara (Jude Law) is a smooth-talking trader who has left his lowly London roots behind, now living the American dream in New York with wife Allison (Carrie Coon) and their children. Eager to grasp his next big opportunity at the height of Thatcherism, he convinces his family to move with him across the pond to an English countryside manor, but his motivations soon become unclear.
An idyllic opening act full of warmth and morning coffees cleverly sets up the perception of how Rory would like his life to be seen. From the outside looking in, a portrait of comfortable affluence is crafted with a rich and smoky mahogany sheen. However, as the darker reality of the situation sets in, the once subtle looks of unease become more apparent, and Durkin’s lens intensifies on the couple’s vulnerabilities and insecurities. The visual palette becomes chillier as their empire, fuelled by yuppie greed and ambition, is in fact a teetering house of cards and a delusional Rory is drastically running out of aces. As the narrative ticks along at a riveting pace, the razor-sharp script explores culture and class through a compelling struggle as the fractured family dynamic comes undone.
Putting on a performance within a performance to a degree, Rory is a slippery chancer and is essentially Del Boy in a flashy designer suit. Jude Law is exceptional at capturing his wicked charm as well as his blind arrogance. His character’s capitalist mentality contrasts with that of Allison; a cool-headed equestrian instructor, equally determined but not afraid of an honest day’s graft. Their transatlantic relationship is stunningly realised from beginning to end, with both Law and Coon giving hugely rewarding turns as the cracks in their suavely polished veneer start to show, and long festering emotions come to the fore in the film’s most gripping scenes.
Clashing with the cutthroat nature of the power-hungry Rory O’Hara, this sublime picture proves that patience is a virtue as Sean Durkin’s work is well worth the wait. A thrillingly dramatic depiction of 80s entrepreneurialism with two of the best performances you’ll see all year, The Nest is the real deal.