The career of Jude Law took an interesting turn as the actor entered his forties. While he’s maintain his movie star looks, age has allowed him to move away from heartthrob roles and into the darker characters that announced his arrival in the 1990s. He was despicable in the overlooked satire Vox Lux, a super villain in Captain Marvel, and a disruptive Young Pope on the small screen. Embracing the darkness continues to reap rewards in this week’s unsettling drama, The Nest.
Law plays Rory, a trader in 1980s New York chasing the decade’s ideals of always wanting more. He has a contented life with his wife Allison (Carrie Coon), a horse-riding teacher, their son Ben (Charlie Shotwell), and Allison’s daughter (Oona Roche). Feeling his opportunities are waning in The States, Rory convinces the family to up sticks to London, where Rory was raised and learned his trade. Spending money he doesn’t have to make a big impression, Rory chases the big deal that he thinks will make everyone rich. However, as the pressure mounts, the rest of the family become unsettled in their new estate, and the family begins to unravel.
There’s an art to making a film feel creepy without showing anything horrific. Sean Durkin, making his first film since his 2011 debut Martha Marcy May Marlene, is known for exploring his inner-most fears in his work. Here the fear is failure, or more accurately questioning what exactly makes success? There’s a touch of Yorgos Lanthimos in the way that Durkin makes ordinary situations seem off kilter, as if every character is dreading some explosion happening at any minute. As the plot progresses, it becomes clear that there is no monster waiting behind the door, instead we are faced with the collective unhappiness building to excruciating levels.
Chief among the discontented is Coon’s Allison, a partner with an awareness of how thin the ice really is. Out of love, and an appreciation of their lifestyle, she goes along with Rory’s plan, but the fury that builds in her when she begins to realise she has been duped again is something to behold. Roche is equally as impressive as Sam, the kind of astute teen that only seems to exist in the movies, gleefully heading down the wrong path when she hooks up with some wrong’uns from the area. Shotwell breaks your heart as Ben, the only truly innocent party in the film. Stifling his own suffering for the sake of the family, the sight of him hiding from the chaos of the final act makes you uncomfortable in your seat.
As good as the cast is, the best moments are preserved for Law. He makes Rory a charming capitalist dreamer whose only perceived obstacle is convincing everyone to get on board with his dream. As his aspirations begin to slip through his fingers, that charm turns to anger as we learn the reasoning behind his desperation, and the people he’ll betray to get to the next step. It’s like watching a mouse navigate a slowly shrinking maze, as Law draws out both pity and disgust.
Some moments stretch disbelief, such as Rory’s discussion with the world’s wisest cab driver. However, The Nest’s use of tangible fears and unsettling tone make for a drama that will rattle around in your head for days. The Nest is in cinemas from 27th August.