I love going into movies blind. There’s nothing more exciting and nerve-wracking to me than walking into a theater or putting on a movie at home with absolutely no context in regards to the plot or tone of what I’m about to see. Well, except maybe skydiving, but I haven’t tried that yet, so I can’t really compare the two.
Watching a movie blind is the best way to level your expectations. It allows you to view the film with no bias and judge it fairly for what it is. It’s why I tend to stay away from trailers and promotions unless it’s a big-budget blockbuster (I’ve come to know exactly what to expect from the next Fast and Furious entry, for example). That way, I can go into the film with as little knowledge about it as possible. Despite this, you can more often than not see where a movie is going within the first 10-15 minutes. That element of surprise is quickly done away with thanks to film clichés and familiar genre elements that let you know exactly what kind of movie you’ve just sat down to experience. Every once in awhile, however, a movie comes along and subverts expectations, making the blind watch completely worthwhile. That is definitely the case with The Nest.
Directed and written by Sean Durkin in his latest film since 2011, The Nest tells the story of Rory O’Hara, portrayed by Jude Law, who after a seemingly successful life of entrepreneurism in the States, moves back to London in the late 1980s so he can work for his old company. Along with his loving wife Allison (Carrie Coon) and their children Samantha and Ben (Oona Roche and Charlie Shotwell), the family moves into a luxurious, countryside house, and as this summary might hint, things begin to take a “twisted turn” once they arrive.
On top of its mysterious and vague plot summary, The Nest is also shot in a peculiar way. The tone of the film, as well as the music and accompanying camera angles in each shot make the entire movie feel like it’s actually some sort of thriller. Pair that with the eerie Victorian mansion backdrop and it’s impossible not to expect some white-gown-clad specter to pop out of the walls and deliver a heart-stopping jump-scare at some point. But despite this alarming setting, The Nest is not an Insidious knock off. Though, that’s not to say it isn’t a thriller.
There isn’t anything supernatural happening in The Nest. No ghosts or ghouls or ancient demons. But there is definitely a haunting aura surrounding the O’Hara family. In this case, the family is “haunted” more in a figurative sense of the word — haunted by change. That’s really the central theme behind the film: change is scary, sudden, and often unavoidable.
Each family member has their own encounter with the ghost of change. Rory, once a young lad from the UK who survived an awful childhood and lifted himself from poverty to become a self-made man, is suddenly struggling to hold on to everything he’s worked so hard to achieve. His obsession with materialism has caused him to spend money he simply doesn’t have, and he begins to learn the hard way how all the money in the world can’t buy him what he really wants. His children encounter change in the form of growing up and facing the challenges that come with this.
The family member most affected by change is unquestionably Allison. Carrie Coon delivers an incredible performance as a mother and wife trying desperately to cling to the reality she once recognized and the family she certainly loves. As such, The Nest is an entirely different kind of thriller. One where the chills and thrills don’t come from jump-scares or scary noises, but from witnessing the pitfalls of a struggling marriage. Law and Coon display this idea masterfully, and Durkin does an amazing job writing a marriage that you can see falling apart in real time.
As I said before, I went into The Nest blind as a bat. But I don’t think any amount of knowledge could have prepared me for what Sean Durkin had in store with his latest film. It truly makes you feel like the fifth member of the family, watching helplessly as the others go through inevitable calamity. It helps that we get to see it all unfold from the different points of view of each family member as well. It’s strange to call this one a thriller, but by the end of it, I was as anxious and on the edge of my seat as I would be watching any scary movie. That’s because The Nest tackles a real-life scary situation, one that a lot of families can relate to in some way or another.