The Nest (2020)
Words by Lucy Vipond

The Nest (2020)

Picture this: your perfect eighties nuclear family moves from New York City to a bleak estate in the English countryside. No, not the country, Surrey; the natural setting for a horror film. You are unable to decorate or fill the vacant rooms, so you close the doors and neglect them. The hedges are trimmed like dungeon walls. You start waking up alone after years of being greeted by your husband with a cup of coffee and a kiss. Perhaps you are going mad.

So is the case for Allison (Carrie Coon), in Sean Durkin's The Nest; less about a lofty bird home and more reincarnation of The Stanley Hotel. She is unexpectedly told by her ambitious husband Rory (Jude Law), that they will be trading their home in New York for London. She reluctantly follows alongside her teenage daughter and their young son. The set up is like a ghost story with all the cliches. A functional family in a foreign, desolate setting, inhabited by families past. A slow burn plot that layers question upon question but withholds answers, perhaps to its own detriment.

Rory attempts to rouse the excitement of his family about the new ostentatious manor he has chosen; ‘they don’t make things like this anymore’, ‘Led Zeppelin stayed here’ and ‘you haven’t seen the best bit, your own football pitch!’ You can sense his wife’s wariness, but most concerning is his emphasis that everything they need is on the property - there is no need to stray.

Their fruitless nest is parallel with Rory and his vapid plans to make money, an extravagant exterior beholding empty rooms. Although more deluded, Rory’s type of preppy toxic masculinity is more often associated with Americans of the fraternity/Wall Street strain. He is traditional English sloane with American immodesty - a deadly combo. But when he returns home to his estranged mother living humbly in a council estate, the depth of his facade seems endless.

I figured most of the film would take place within the bare rooms and static brown wooden walls that encompass them, leaving the audience feeling equally stir crazy. Instead, there are detours and commutes to swanky offices, parties that gather an Oxbridge crowd and those lavish dinners that businessmen go to discuss work.

Set during the Thatcher era, the politics Durkin explores are family orientated and patriarchal. At these upmarket events Allison watches as a mere wife as Rory performs wealth, intellect and taste, to a crowd she has no desire to please. He gives her a fur coat, a costume fit for her new role. She discovers she’s in London under false pretences - an opportunity never came to Rory, he sought it. She waits home at night for him, sometimes all night, lounging in front of the fire questioning to whom she married.

Ever in style, Allison’s best look comes after confronting her husband and getting drunk in a bar. Her tight French chignon dishevels and her padded shoulders fall as she dances to Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy.

This deterioration spreads throughout the family; their daughter experiments with drugs, their young son starts wetting his bed, Allison hears movements and grows distressed, declaring all her family are strangers to her. The film never quite crosses the line into a full on fever dream.

My mind watched as if it were a series of chapters, surprised to find the film was not an adaptation of a novel. The storytelling is so linear and the direction so fuss free it's like turning pages in a book, everything propels the viewer forward in the narrative while its elusive nature keeps you grounded. We can concur the film represents a man no longer able to outrun his lies, a study of a bad marriage as well as a hundred other possible theories, but such an immense build up surely merits an ending more volatile than Durkin delivers.