Commodities trader Rory O’ Hara (Jude Law) is an outwardly successful businessman. He is happily married to Allison (Carrie Coon), with whom he has two delightful children, his son, Ben (Charlie Shotwell), and stepdaughter, Sam (Oona Roche). The four of them dwell in a lovely home in New York and Allison is working successfully as a riding instructor. All things considered, Rory ought to be content with his life.
But something is bugging him, something he finds hard to deny. He wants…well, more – and he thinks he’s spotted a perfect chance to achieve it back in London, working for his former boss, Arthur (Michael Culkin). After all, it’s the 1980s, an era when any get-rich-quick scheme should be grabbed with both hands and dragged kicking and screaming into submission. This is an opportunity not to be missed!
Before any of his family can utter an objection, Rory has uprooted them and dragged them off to a mouldering mansion in the dark heart of Surrey. Yes, the place is virtually falling down around them, but Led Zeppelin once recorded an album here! Rory sets to work, purchasing a horse for Allison, building a stable for it and doing his utmost to push Arthur towards a lucrative contract with some America buyers he’s encountered. If it comes off, Rory will be rich beyond his wildest dreams. But what he’s clearly lost sight of is the happiness of his own family. Allison is struggling to tame that new horse. Ben is having trouble at the private school he’s been enrolled at. And Sam just feels as though she’s always having to settle for second best.
As Rory’s overpowering drive to be successful at any cost moves into top gear, the O’ Haras start to unravel, and there’s something about the house they’re living in that feels more and more unsettling…
The Nest demonstrates an unusual – perhaps unique – approach to its theme, utilising all the tropes of a contemporary horror movie and applying them to a story about a family in turmoil. The oppressive atmosphere and Richard Reed Parry’s creepy soundtrack continually hint at the possibility of something supernatural lurking in the woodwork, but it gradually becomes clear that the ravenous beast that haunts this home is Rory’s vaulting ambition – that constant yearning for success that he can no longer control.
Rory’s brief visit to his mother (played by the ever-dependable Anne Reid) goes some way to explain how he’s become the venal, boastful creature that he is, but it doesn’t really excuse him, when he can no longer seem to open his mouth without attempting to impress whoever is unfortunate enough to be listening. A horrified Allison witnesses his descent and begins to go off the rails herself.
Both Law and Coon offer superb performances here, capturing the rapid disintegration of the couple’s relationship. Writer/director Sean Durkin helms the piece with great control, gradually racking the tension up another notch as he steers his ship into tragedy. And as for those supernatural possibilities… well, there is one thing here that is never rationally explained – and it will play on your mind after you’ve left the cinema.