A still from “The Nest,” which premiered this year at Sundance
In 2011, Sean Durkin won the dramatic directing award for his directorial debut “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” tapping into the terror of a cult lingering on in the mind of an escaped victim. With his new movie “The Nest,” Durkin returns this year to Sundance with a social critique of life in the early 80s in England. The film follows the story of charismatic entrepreneur, Rory (Jude Law), who relocates his family to England (from America) with dreams of profiting from the booming commodities market in London. His wife, Allison (Carrie Coon) struggles to adapt, and the promise of a lucrative new life in jolly old England soon begins to fade into oblivion.
Before the move, Rory seems to have it all: a successful broker nestled in a quiet retreat on the outskirts of New York, replete with a beautiful wife and two darling kids. But after he moves to England, he’s driven by an ambition to do and make more. So, Rory sniffs out a business opportunity in London and then quickly relocates his family to Surrey, housed in a beautiful old mansion with the promise of a new beginning.
Unsettled and bemused, Allison adapts to life in England as Rory spins his deals. But unwelcome truths begin to surface, and we soon learn that the family has already moved four times in the past 10 years as Rory chases one deal after another, apparently with little or no success. He then dreams of running a 24-hour trading firm in London, but it’s yet another lofty ideal with no basis in reality.
Law is deliciously slick as Rory, lighting up the screen as a selfish, manipulative commodities broker. He’s all smoke and mirrors, and, let’s face it, no one plays desperation quite like Law. He’s charismatic, but he’s really a fool who is deeply out of touch with reality.
Coon is even better, in top form as the tension grows. She plays a housewife who has sacrificed her career to watch a man pursue his own lofty dreams. Eventually, she eyes Rory with increasing resentment, all sneers and subtle glances as he sinks deeper into debt and despair. In the end, she has a slow realization that their marriage is held together by nothing but lofty expectations. It’s a heartbreaking storyline to watch, one where she recognizes that her picture-perfect family is a mere construct.
The film has great visuals and sound: It’s set to an hypnotic and absorbing score by Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Perry. And Mátyás Erély, from “Son of Saul,” works his magic as cinematographer
“The Nest” is an elegant and precisely constructed tale, a slow if fascinating burn that slowly picks away at the perfection.