By Christian DiMartino
If you’re one of the unfortunate souls who is unaware of the greatness of Carrie Coon, allow me to help.
If anyone has seen her in anything, chances are it was in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, where she played Ben Affleck’s supportive sister and confidante. In terms of major Hollywood productions, for whatever reason, she hasn’t quite had her day (she’s had bit parts in movies like Avengers: Infinity War and The Post), but she is excellent in Gone Girl, and is probably excellent in theatre, where she got her start. Gone Girl gathered my attention, but it was HBO’s The Leftovers that had me swooning over her. As Nora Durst, a mother who lost her entire family in the blink of an eye, Coon is not only one of the most complex characters on the show (if you’ve seen the show, you’ll know it’s quite the contest), but she also is the beating heart of it, particularly by Season 3. Plus, in my eyes, it’s the greatest show in existence, so everyone involved in it has a pass for life (please, watch it).
Sean Durkin’s The Nest had me at Jude Law, but even more at Carrie Coon. Because it isn’t often that she gets to headline a movie, and unfortunately she headlined a movie that not only did not many people see, but it was a movie not many saw because of COVID-19. Well folks, if domestic character studies are your cup of tea, here is the movie for you. On paper, The Nest doesn’t sound tremendously exciting, yet if you’re looking for a masterclass in acting, this is it. It’s a film that might move slowly, and yet it never lost my interest, and it’s perhaps because Durkin really captures a family that I believed every part of, and completing it is four really strong performances.
Set in the 80’s (not really sure why, but the soundtrack is great), Coon and Law play Allison and Rory O’Hara, who with their two kids Sam and Ben (Oona Roche and Charlie Shotwell) live in a nice little place in New York. Allison is an American, and while she doesn’t work, she does have a passion for horses. Rory is English, obviously, and an entrepreneur. Things seem well for about 10 minutes, until Rory suggests moving back to England for more opportunity. “Go f**k yourself,” is Allison’s reply, but she and the kids ultimately budge and move to an eerie mansion in England. No, this is not the set-up for a horror movie, and yet it does echo one at times.
It feels as if upon moving there, the O’Hara’s begin to become cold and distant. Sam lashes out at her mother; Ben is involved in some trouble at school; Rory is off at work too much. Allison practically feels estranged from these people, and the only complete connection she seems to feel is with her horse. If you couldn’t tell from her initial reaction, Allison really wasn’t happy about this move, and the more the tensions begin to bubble to the surface, the more the family begins to fall apart.
There’s something kind of organic about The Nest that really works. It almost feels as if Durkin had his characters, and then just took them in whatever direction he saw fit. This sounds like a jab, but it isn’t, because that’s kind of the way life can be sometimes, and it adds a certain realness to the proceedings. The best scene in the film comes about halfway through, whenever Rory and Allison finally speak their minds. Yet it’s more than that; he hadn’t been home in days, and she was experiencing a loss, and the way that this conversation unfolds is really something to see. It’s a great showcase for two very strong actors and it feels so realistic that it almost didn’t feel like it was scripted.
The Nest, like something along the lines of In the Bedroom, is about a group of people who cannot face each other with how they really feel. It’s about what’s under the surface, and as human beings, we can try to escape how we really feel as much as we want, but eventually you have to let it out. This isn’t quite a great film, like In the Bedroom, if only maybe because it’s been done before. Yet it is done really well here, and this is among the best films that you didn’t see last year.