This is a spoiler-free review, which means we can’t talk about genre.
A rare feat for a film, Director Sean Durkin’s successor to Martha Marcy May Marlene finds wealthy, handsome parents Rory and Allison (Jude Law and Carrie Coon), at Rory’s insistence, relocating from America to his native England because of, well, opportunity.
There are dramatic elements, comedic tinges and more confronting hallmarks but going into any more detail will inevitably betray this film’s direction which pointedly does not venture fully down the trodden path of these forms, at least as we’ve come to know them.
Criticism of The Nest will likely focus on how this film neglects to clearly indicate what it is ‘about’ by the first act while it spurns following through on arcs suggested by the cinematography; instead fulfilling denouements stylistically distinct from what the filmmaking language appears to signal. This does not however permit a jumbled tone given the concise steps Durkin takes to reach his conclusions or a lack of payoff in light of that we simply cannot and moreover should not expect that a film, just because we’re used to something similar, panning out alike.
Films should be original, they should confound, and when they pull the rug out from under us before we realised there was a rug that’s cause for commendation.
Law, reliably good, has shrewdly chosen his roles as of late. Unlike most performers of his fame or who otherwise have discretion, Law has here as in else opted for a part that reflects and plays into one of Hollywood’s most recognisably charming and handsome actors having, as we all do, aged. It is Coon however who manages most of the best sequences, among them a dance number making you wish you could dance again and rendering a renewed appreciation for a song you have heard too many times.
This scene, together with its closest contender, an encounter between Rory and a Taxi Driver, curiously bear the usually bad signs, evinced here through lyrics and a speech, of a device the Director and/or Screenwriter throws in to explicitly and frustratingly tell us exactly where a character is up to and all the creators wish to impart. Uncommonly, both instances render this function relatively imperceptible and very possibly indiscernible on viewing given the quality with which the scenes are evinced, the form of the actors and welcome dynamism of both moments.
As much about the clash between 1980s (and to an extent still modern) USA and England than anything else, many films focus on the pitfalls and/or more commendable features of American idealism, or otherwise do the same for England; few, very few, manage all four in tandem. Law’s haranguing of his business counterparts in light of prospective ventures while we slowly learn of the rich man’s past will be more relatable for those on any side of the divide than, say, almost anything set on Wall Street in the past twenty years.
Keenly aware of the cultural context in which it is operating, the placement of the family within a Manor is ideal to this effect; endearingly grand for some and for others, most others indeed, intrinsically haunting and of course dependent on your disposition towards these countries and their formative traits.
Not all shining, the unnecessary symbolism of a recurring horse motif, here substituting for the all too ready deer, just didn’t need to transpire. Otherwise conveying a very palpable family dynamic, imparting news of a death in a common and realistically subdued, matter of fact manner absent the dramatic flourishes for which films are generally known permit Durkin the scope to save his emphases for the moments most consequential to this narrative of which there are many, all of which resonate.
The Nest, which screened as part of the British Film Festival, is in cinemas now