Though he was born English, Rory (Jude Law) is American through and through. Not in his politics or personal tastes, but in his desire to make more out of his station in life, his need to rise from rags to riches, and his ability to fake it until he makes it.

Written and directed by Sean Durkin, The Nest is a slow burner of a drama where a man trying to make something of himself discovers that he doesn’t have a lot to cultivate. Born and raised in London, Rory relocated to America years ago at his wife’s request. She’s Allison (Carrie Coon), and she works with horses. They have two kids, Allison’s teenage daughter from a previous marriage, Samantha (Oona Roche), and 10-year-old Benjamin (Charlie Shotwell). Now Rory wants to move back to London, buy an over-priced, over-side estate in the country, and tell everyone they kept their penthouse in New York for weekend getaways. He’s also looking to buy a vacation home in Portugal—as he tells a couple of clients—because the market’s good. Allison knows better. She knows how much is in his bank account, and she knows there’s even less in his pocket.

Rory is the driving force behind The Nest, but Durkin chooses to spend most of the movie’s runtime with Allison, watching the weight of Rory’s reckless behavior accumulate. Worse, she gets little relief from her children. Samantha is distant in the ways most teens are, and Benjamin keeps to himself and wets the bed. Allison and Samantha both give the air they’ve been in this situation before, and it’s only a matter of time for the other shoe to drop. For Benjamin, this is his first time around the disappointment tree, and it doesn’t look like he’s enjoying it all that much.

Though parts of The Nest feel authentic and are presented in a compelling can’t-look-away way, the movie is, ultimately, a let down with nothing ever really happening. You constantly think something is going to happen, a lot of things, actually—at one point you wonder if it’s a cloak and dagger horror movie, at another a contrived tragedy—which is what keeps the engine turning and the eyes glued to the screen. Seeing The Nest is engaging. Having seen The Nest is deflating.

At one point, the camera lingers on Allison’s hair made up into two tight curls, like Kim Novak’s character(s) in Vertigo. When she turns her head, she kind of looks like Novak. And she’s wearing a backless black dress, just like the one Novak wore when she was also in the grip of a madman’s delusions. Two women, both controlled by façades. It’s an interesting allusion; whether or not The Nest earns it is questionable.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Nest (2020)
Written and directed by Sean Durkin
Produced by Rose Garnett, Ed Guiney, Amy Jackson, Andrew Lowe, Christina Piovesan, Derrin Schlesinger
Starring: Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Oona Roche, Charlie Shotwell, Michael Culkin
IFC Films, Rated R, Running time 107 minutes, Opens Sept. 18 in select theaters.

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