Despite strong performances, sharp filmmaking and plentiful discomfort, The Nest doesn’t amount to much beyond a fairly quiet look at a family imploding.
Writer/director Sean Durkin’s focus on a limited number of characters, whose choices barely reverberate beyond their household, calls into question why, after a nine-year feature film hiatus, he felt compelled to tell such a small, insular story — though after this and the similarly self-contained Martha Marcy May Marlene, such exercises may simply be his jam.
A slight improvement over his predecessor, though set in the Reagan era for no apparent reason, The Nest features characteristically top-notch acting by Carrie Coon and Jude Law as Allison and Rory O’Hara, parents to mouthy teen daughter Samantha (Oona Roche, “The Morning Show”) and timid tween son Ben (Charlie Shotwell, All the Money in the World).
Rory, a British expat investor, senses his business prospects in the U.S. have dried up and moves his family across the pond to a sprawling rented estate in the English countryside. Though he talks a big game and has grand ambitions with can’t-miss prospects, it gradually becomes clear that Rory is awful at what he does, and the resulting financial stress reverberates throughout his household.
It’s an interesting enough setup, but one undercut by a surprising lack of development of the film’s minuscule number of relationships. In addition to shying away from basic details like why Samantha is such a shit to her mom or why Ben lacks confidence, Durkin offers a true head-scratcher in the dynamic between Rory and his London-based employer Arthur (Michael Culkin, “The Crown”), the alleged toxicity of which in part had prompted Rory’s move to America, yet has apparently dissipated to the point where Rory can stand to be in his boss’s presence again.
Rory’s motivations for chasing big paydays at the expense of his family’s well-being is likewise ineffectively explored through a half-cooked tangent involving the old chestnut of him growing up poor and wanting to be rich.
In short, Rory is an idiot, though his lack of maturity inspires several entertaining and merited childish outbursts from Allison, whose ubiquitous scowl and downward-hanging cigarette fit Coon marvelously.
But relatively fun as she can be, adults behaving badly is nothing new, and the cold, largely pointless vehicle for such actions makes it hard for viewers to care about the players involved.
Now playing at Flat Rock Cinema