Social climbers are normally a brunt of loud laughter in cinema, sometimes subtle satire as in Emma, but never to be taken too seriously. In The Nest, which is an important film in many senses, Jude Law plays the Britisher Rory O’Hara, who leads a picture-perfect life with his American wife Alison and two (picture-perfect) children in the US. He decides to relocate to his home in Britain for better prospects.
In the first of many husband-wife conversations of subtly punctuated frisson, Roy tells Alison about his plans to relocate to England. It is here that we get the first real clue of what Rory is really all about. An investment banker by profession, Rory is simply a cheap wheeler-dealer in an expensive suit, that too bought on credit. He purchases a manor in Surrey in suburban London for his family but has no money to pay for its renovation.
The Nest is like a tranquil stream, ready to scream, where the water runs deep and the turbulence is just under the surface waiting to surface and destroy the O’Hara family’s sham affluence. Director Sean Durkin (his first film Martha Marcy May Marlene was a masterclass in classy creepiness) creates a dark foreboding atmosphere in the family mansion, as though some evil spirit would soon show up. Providentially, the film steers clear of cheap thrills and convenient solutions to what’s clearly a deep crisis of moral and economic prioritizing.
Jude Law plays such a despicable social climber that even a cab driver making small conversation with him sees right through him and leaves him stranded on the road. Seeing through Rory O’Hara, eventually, becomes a kind of eerie game in the script, as piece by piece Rory’s superficial charm wears thin and everyone, sees right through him. Most of all his wife who begins to abhor him and humiliate him in public every time he weaves a new self-aggrandizing yarn.
The Nest is a very pretty film about a dark ugly moral downslide so ugly and degrading that it takes an actor of great guts to play a man so shallow you can smell his deceit from miles away. Jude Law is terrific in the part. This is his best since The Talented My Ripley and certainly the most revolting character he has ever played.
Carrie Coon as the wife is also very persuasive in her rapidly-declining affections and respect for her husband. Her attachment to her horse Richmond is one of the film’s striking themes that means much more than apparent on the surface.
Remarkably, there are a slew of excellent supporting performances Charle Chotwell and Oona Rooche as the two O’Hara children, and Anna Reid as Rory’s estranged unforgiving mum. Even the taxi driver (played by James Nelson-Joyce) who leaves Rory stranded on the road, has got something really important to say. When you are an over-reacher you end up nowhere.
The Nest is a remarkably restrained look at one over-reacher’s downfall. It ends with the family together at the breakfast table. In the end, that is all that matters.
Image source: IMDb
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