Brit Rory O’Hara (Jude Law), his American wife Allison (Carrie Coon), daughter Samantha (Oona Roche) and son Ben (Charlie Shotwell) epitomize a traditional family in the 1980s. They eat dinner together, talk to one another, work hard and live a comfortable life in American suburbia.
When Rory convinces Allison to move their family to Britain, she reluctantly agrees.
Allison and the kids arrive to a large historic estate with promises of horse stables, pastures and all of their dreams fulfilled.
However, Britain doesn’t hold the promised milk and honey, instead it offers a dose of reality for Rory and his unhappy family.
“The Nest” is a drama that follows the O’Hara family as they embark upon the next chapter in their family journey.
Writer/director Sean Durkin introduces a typical nuclear family with soccer in the backyard and a playfulness only happy families can have. Yet, even before we can finish our whimsical sigh of approval, cracks begin to show.
Allison doesn’t want to uproot her family – again. Rory admits to feeling stagnant and stifled in the U.S. As their arrival opens to thrilling settings of a palatial home, business opportunities, assured success, dinner parties, expensive meals and true happiness – it slowly begins to stale by both circumstance and poor decisions.
Rory is a man pretending to be a big shot by always overselling himself while desperately trying to convince himself and others of his self-worth. Allison tries to support her husband, but spots his weakness and becomes frustrated with him.
This film is a family’s journey through dark times. Allison, Samantha and Ben try to make a life in Britain, but each struggles with their own personal problems and none share their feelings/troubles with anyone else – and is reminiscent of Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm.”
The difference between these two films is subtle, but makes all the difference. Both films are well structured and skillfully shot. Both films have a talented cast, but the stories and character development differ. “The Nest” lacks the drama to heighten the emotional hooks. The performances are strong, but the characters and story lack an edge that drives a narrative forward and creates memorable moments.
“The Nest” has a sturdy frame with many worthy elements, but ultimately lays an egg with its emotionally diminished story.
Writer-director Sean Durkin’s keen eye for the rhythm of everyday life and family dynamics make for astute observations in a mature adult drama, “The Nest.”
Set in the mid-1980s, materialism is a big part of the story and depicted in the way Rory seeks to acquire trappings as he builds a hot-shot professional image. However, the country manor Rory leases is too grand and dilapidated for any semblance of coziness. Big, drafty rooms, with their nighttime shadows, give off eerie vibes in a thriller sort of way.
But it is the internal factors of a family unraveling that propel this story. At first, it looks like domestic bliss, but Rory’s restlessness and cocky, vain airs give way to cracks in the relationships. We soon learn that he lies. Big and little lies. Those consequences begin piling up – at work and at home.
The children have problems assimilating to a different country, and their sadness, which can’t help but surface, is integral to the bigger portrait of dysfunction. Benjamin (Charlie Shotwell) is their son; Samantha (Oona Roche) is Allison’s daughter from another relationship.
Durkin, who wrote and directed the mysterious and riveting “Marcy Martha May Marlene,” has carefully crafted a grown-up drama that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
The acting is a high point, with Jude Law and Carrie Coon at the top of their game. Law hasn’t been this challenged in ages, and he fiercely digs in – and he is matched by the sublime Coon, a venerable stage actress who has made her mark in limited series “The Leftovers” and “Fargo,” as well as films.
Anne Reid, as Rory’s mother, and Michael Culkin as his boss, stand out in brief supporting roles.