Movie Review: The Nest (2020)

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The money is coming, Rory O'Hara (Jude Law) promises. All he needs is ten more days or one more deal, whichever comes first. 

A British commodities broker who, within minutes, we can tell has built his own unique, possibly transparent kingdom on his ability to bullshit, at the start of “Martha Marcy May Marlene” writer-director Sean Durkin's new film “The Nest," Rory uproots his blended family in the states and brings them all back to England. 

Living in the early 1980s but still nursing a hangover from what Tom Wolfe dubbed the "Me Decade," Rory is, we ascertain, an avid acquirer of stuff – perhaps more for what it says about him to have said stuff than the actual stuff itself. This includes his beloved wife Allison (Carrie Coon), a blonde American beauty whose hair color and nationality he proudly announces to others as if he purchased both at a shop like the real estate and designer goods he covets. When Rory tells Allison that he can't wait to show her off, in his case, we know he means it.

Happily back on his native soil, Rory rents a massive centuries-old country estate in Surrey that's as big and empty as the promises he will soon either have to make good on or find his loved ones coming after him to collect. Although he'll be commuting to London each day to turn numbers into dollars and dollars into pounds, he plans to build a stable on the property for his equestrian wife. 

Eager to return to boarding horses and giving riding lessons to others, Allison has concrete, realistic plans that she's excited to get off the ground, if only so that she can run as free as the horses that symbolize her American independence, since, as her husband has told her, he doesn't like the idea of her working for anyone else. 

The wife on his arm who's now merely as decorative as the fur coat he surprises her with after the move, independence is something that Allison's afraid she's left behind in the states. Even before her cherished horse arrives skittish in this foreign land, we see the resignation in her eyes when she sizes up her new home. In fact, it's front and center on Allison's face when, forgetting one of the lies he's told to prop himself up as the returning king who's conquered America, Rory's old mentor/new boss gives an extemporaneous speech that directly contradicts the reason he's given Allison for the family's fourth move in ten years.

A quiet study of behavior and the co-dependent roles we play in our relationships with others whose lies we either choose to confront or support out of love and fear at upsetting the status quo, even though it's set in the 1980s, "The Nest" plays like an Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton marital drama for the twenty-first century. 

More implosive than explosive, at least until the resentment that's been pushed down below the surface as far back as a decade ago rises up to the top, the film works as well as it does because of the sheer conviction of co-leads Coon and Law. A revelation, particularly for Carrie Coon who, as divine as she is with paragraphs of dialogue, can say so much with just one exhausted look, “The Nest” is also further proof that no one plays a handsome, two-faced liar quite like Jude Law, who's cornered the market on the kind of gorgeous, egotistical men your mother warned you about since 1999's “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” 

Cleverly using source music to build an overall mood, the way that hazily romantic '80s New Wave songs waft into the room on a boom box in their teenage daughter's bedroom or blast over speakers at a nightclub helps give these otherwise largely well-behaved and restrained individuals their inner scream. 

In "The Nest," Durkin's characters are overwhelmed by design, utterly trapped by the front that they put on for others – the one that WASPs and yuppies in the Reagan and Bush years turned into a chilly art form of faux success. And although we don't quite know precisely what year this is all taking place, the fact that the stock market crash of '87 is coming seems to fill the film with as much impending dread as the lyrics to a song by The Smiths or The Psychedelic Furs. 

An external crash that will completely alter the world, although it's always out there somewhere off in the distance, the immediate crash that Durkin's impressive film focuses on most is the one in Rory and Allison's lives where so much value has been placed on things that have none compared to the living things that should and do. But that's the thing about a crash. If, for years, you've insulated yourself with excess, you don't know it's coming until you're hit. Only then, however, the first person you need to confront isn't the one you've crashed into, it's yourself. 

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