Movie Review: Carrie Coon and Jude Law Shine in 'The Nest'
Two ace actors at the top of their game sparring in an unexpectedly compelling family drama.
I could watch Carrie Coon grind Jude Law’s out sized ego to dust for days and days and days. That’s not a commentary on them as human beings, I don’t know them personally. But, from watching their sensational and spiky back and forth in the exceptional new drama The Nest, I find that Coon taking Law’s metaphoric manhood into her hands and twisting for all she’s worth to be my new happy place. These two actors make for a remarkable on screen pair.
The Nest stars Law and Coon as Rory and Allison, a married couple living in New York. Allison and their two kids, Benjamin (Charlie Shotwell), their son together and Sam (Oona Roche), Allison’s daughter from a previous marriage, are content in New York but Rory has grown restless. An inveterate seeker of fortune, we sense quickly that Rory is known for being unable to sit still, he is constantly seeking a fortune that is just out of his grasp.
One morning, Rory tells Allson that he’s received a job offer from a former boss in London and he wants to take the job. Allison is not happy about the idea but Rory promises that their money problems will go away with this big money job. Rory has, in fact, already secured a home, one with large acreage on which to build a horse farm. Allison is currently a riding coach. Rory claims he can give her her very own stable from which to breed horses and teach riding lessons.
Dubious but supportive, Allison agrees and the family is off to London. In a lesser movie this would be the set up for some cheap haunted house movie, especially when we see the dilapidated but massive mansion Rory has secured as their ‘country home.’ Rory talks a big game at all times. As the movie progresses, Rory’s stories of wealth and privilege become ever more fantastical. Secretly, Rory has banked everything on one deal that if he can’t complete it, could doom him for good in his chosen field of investment banking.
Writer-Director Sean Durkin does an excellent job of seeding the character of Rory with traits that slowly become monstrous rather than making him an outright villain all the way. In the end, there is no real villain, just a deeply flawed and struggling family and all the hurt and love that comes with the accumulating stress, boredom, and striving of your basic, everyday life. It’s a little more dramatic for someone like Rory who too often appears to be risking everything at all times for the sheer, destructive, edgy thrill of it. But, I’ve known people like Rory, arrogant strivers who build their foundations on the sand and beg the tide to stay away.
I’ve known an Allison as well, a whip smart pragmatist with compassion and self preservation in equal measure. She won’t hesitate to defend herself when wronged but she’s not a ballbuster or some shrill, demanding monster. She has the kind of expectations of her husband that are perfectly reasonable if your husband isn’t an overly narcissistic and deeply insecure ass for him nothing is ever quite good enough when it comes to money or possessions.
Carrie Coon has long been one of our most reliable and witty actors. Coon has the unique, quirky energy you only get from truly great actresses who could not care less what you think of their characters. Coon’s performances always feel so alive and lived in, they have the scars and the nervy tension of someone who's lived a real life. There is no polish on Allison, she’s at her wits end being far from home and worrying that Rory’s scheming is going to ruin them both. She’s at the end of her rope and her sick and tired air is deeply compelling, we feel it as much as she does.
Jude Law has never been better. Law has played deconstructions on his persona as a handsome and confident jack of all trades who is deep down a scared little boy but rarely with this much intensity and vibrant life. Law’s Rory has an emptiness deep in his guts that he is desperate to fill even as he knows that there is no amount of wealth that will ever let him feel whole. This is an emotional emptiness ingrained from an impoverished childhood that left him desperate to stick it to everyone who ever doubted him.
That kind of energy in a person can be exciting for a while but when that ambition curdles, as clearly has in Rory, it becomes sweaty, desperate and cringe inducing. That energy gives a great deal of weight to the ending of The Nest that I was not prepared for. The Nest is a terrific piece of work with exceptional acting and a well told, highly unpredictable story. Carrie Coon and Jude Law deliver awards caliber performances.
The Nest is available for streaming rental and in some theaters on Friday, September 18th.