The Nest (4 stars)

The Nest

Sean Durkin directs Jude Law and Carrie Coon in a devastating relationship drama

This exhilaratingly grown-up and penetratingly-shot relationship drama from writer-director Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene, TV's Southcliffe) zeroes in on a crumbling marriage and is unsparing in its portrayal of parental failings and the toll this takes on offspring. Sporting many of the trappings of a thriller, and a supernatural one at that, it is set in a capacious British countryside mansion, in which an American family anomalously set up home.

Unfolding in the eighties, The Nest focuses on the ostensibly glamourous Rory and Allison O'Hara, played by Jude Law and the chameleon-like Carrie Coon. The couple seem firmly enamoured with each other at the outset but that changes when they relocate from New York to an estate in Surrey, so that British-born commodities broker Rory can return to his former firm in London to pursue what he claims is an exciting new opportunity for his old boss Arthur (Michael Culkin).

Equine enthusiast Allison is unsettled by the move, which leaves her desperately isolated and immersed in spooky surroundings. However, work on a stable begins in the sprawling backyard, with the plan being for Allison to start her own horse training business, while the gift of a beautiful steed keeps her somewhat sweet. Their children are similarly out-of-sorts; the teenaged Sam (Oona Roche) resents being sent to the local comp and is looking for ways to rebel, and her nervous younger brother Ben (Charlie Shotwell) quickly struggles with the pressures of private school.

The terrific score from Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry adds elegance and a sometimes-sinister atmosphere, with bad omens to come and the scales about to fall from Allison's eyes regarding the family's financial situation and Rory's claims about work. Visually, it boasts all the gloss of the O'Haras' lifestyle – some of the costumes are to die for and it's stunningly shot by Mátyás Erdély (Son of Saul) – but Durkin takes us beyond the surface to expose the family's internal anguish and personal failings.

Durkin was brought up in North London and Surrey after being born in Canada, while his family moved to Manhattan when he was 12. He brings this unique perspective to the material, revealing the tension of transatlantic relations and the consequences of the era's bravado and excess – which catch up with Rory in a number of excruciating scenes. A slippery Law is well-cast as an eager-to-prove-himself wideboy, yet Coon is sublime as a watchful, alienated and increasingly anxious wife reaching the end of her tether. The Nest nails the exhaustion of keeping up appearances, the damage that is done by dishonesty, and the sheer creepiness of living with a liar.

Available to watch in cinemas from Friday 27 August.

The Nest

  • 4 stars
  • 2020
  • US / UK / Canada
  • 1h 47min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Sean Durkin
  • Written by: Sean Durkin
  • Cast: Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Charlie Shotwell, Oona Roche, Adeel Akhtar
  • UK release: 27 August 2021

Entrepreneur Rory (Jude Law), his wife Allison (Carrie Coon) and their children move back to England as part of his latest venture. As the truth is revealed, the family begin to fall apart.