Chicago Sun-Times


Jude Law, Car­rie Coon fuse their skills play­ing spouses in con­flict

- BY RICHARD ROEPER, MOVIE COLUM­NIST rroeper@sun­ | @RichardERo­eper

We were just talk­ing the other day about how Jude Law al­ways seems to be work­ing and how his per­for­mances never fail to im­press — and even as Law is tear­ing it up as a fa­ther on a des­per­ate mis­sion in the HBO lim­ited se­ries “The Third Day,” here he is again, and he’s just as out­stand­ing as a very dif­fer­ent but equally des­per­ate fa­ther in the fea­ture film “The Nest,” a sear­ing por­trait of a fam­ily rip­ping apart at the seams.

Over the last half-dozen years, Step­pen­wolf Theatre stand­out Car­rie Coon has been just as pro­lific and out­stand­ing as Law, in ac­claimed TV se­ries such as “The Leftovers” and “Fargo,” and in films such as “Gone Girl” and “Wi­d­ows” — and the pair­ing of Law and Coon as a mar­ried cou­ple do­ing an ex­tended love/hate dance in “The Nest” re­sults in an ab­so­lute master class in act­ing. When the two of them face off on a din­ner date in which they ver­bally lac­er­ate one an­other with pin­point vit­riol, one wouldn’t blame their hap­less server for run­ning out through the kitchen and never look­ing back.

“The Nest” is set in the 1980s and opens in sub­ur­ban New York, where hot­shot Bri­tish com­modi­ties whiz Rory (Law) and his wife, Al­li­son, (Coon), who gives rid­ing lessons at a nearby sta­ble, seem to have it all. They’re both do­ing what they love, they live in a beau­ti­ful home with Al­li­son’s teenage daugh­ter, Sam (Oona Roche), from a pre­vi­ous union and their young son Ben­jamin (Char­lie Shotwell), and there’s a lov­ing fam­ily dy­namic all around. It’s the Amer­i­can Dream.

But Rory is rest­less. He never wanted this safe and com­fort­able, upper-mid­dle-class life. He yearns to re­turn to Eng­land and re­join the firm where he first made his mark as a ris­ing star — but this time, Rory is go­ing to make the kind of bold moves that will put him on the map as a ma­jor fi­nan­cial player. And just like that, Rory up­roots the fam­ily with lit­tle re­gard for their feel­ings and they re­lo­cate to an in­sanely huge man­sion out­side of Lon­don. (Rory ar­rives first and greets the fam­ily with great en­thu­si­asm and lav­ish gifts, and tem­po­rar­ily as­suages Al­li­son’s mis­giv­ings by promis­ing to build her a sta­ble and prac­tice area. He even ships in a prized horse from Amer­ica.)

Rory is wel­comed with open arms at his old firm, with his for­mer boss and men­tor Arthur (Michael Culkin, per­fectly play­ing an old­school, risk-averse fi­nan­cial fat­cat) fondly treat­ing him like a re­turn­ing prodi­gal son. But when Arthur hosts a cock­tail re­cep­tion and Al­li­son watches as Rory spins one tall tale af­ter an­other and learns Rory even lied to her about the cir­cum­stances of their move, you can feel the on­set of per­haps ir­re­versible cracks in their mar­riage. (The look on Al­li­son’s face when she re­al­izes the ex­tent of Rory’s de­cep­tion is un­for­get­table. Coon con­veys a world of emo­tions with great sub­tlety.) Rory be­comes in­creas­ingly manic as he pur­sues a long­shot deal that could make him as wealthy as he pretends to be, while Al­li­son takes a job on a nearby farm just to help pay the bills as she spi­rals into a deep de­pres­sion. Mean­while, Sam and Ben­jamin are left to fend for them­selves as their par­ents lash out at each other as if they’re in an Ed­ward Al­bee drama.

“The Nest” fea­tures book­end Mom at the Kitchen Table mo­ments. Early on, be­fore the move to Eng­land, Al­li­son clinks glasses of wine with her tough but lov­ing mother (Wendy Crew­son), who of­fers prac­ti­cal advice. Much later, Rory pays a visit to his es­tranged mother (Anne Reid), who didn’t even know he was mar­ried, didn’t know she had a grand­son and re­sponds to his in­vi­ta­tion to visit by say­ing she doesn’t see the point af­ter all this time. In both scenes, we pick up valu­able in­for­ma­tion about what makes Al­li­son and Rory tick.

Nearly a decade af­ter mak­ing a splash with the bril­liant psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller “Martha Marcy May Mar­lene,” writer-pro­ducer-direc­tor Sean Durkin’s sopho­more fea­ture is de­lib­er­ately paced, down­beat and dark — but there’s an ex­quis­ite, melan­choly beauty in so many small mo­ments, e.g., when Al­li­son gulps her morn­ing cof­fee and sucks on a cig­a­rette like a life­line as “These Dreams” by Heart plays on the car ra­dio as she drives to work one morn­ing, or when Rory has to walk the last few miles home from Lon­don just be­fore dawn when his cab­driver re­al­izes Rory can’t pay the fare. And there’s some­thing ex­hil­a­rat­ing about watch­ing Jude Law and Car­rie Coon clash­ing with each other in per­fect har­mony.

 ?? IFC FILMS ?? Al­li­son (Car­rie Coon) be­gins to re­al­ize hus­band Rory (Jude Law) isn’t al­ways be­ing truth­ful in “The Nest.”
IFC FILMS Al­li­son (Car­rie Coon) be­gins to re­al­ize hus­band Rory (Jude Law) isn’t al­ways be­ing truth­ful in “The Nest.”

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