Money talks, but few directors let it speak as clearly and as copiously as Sean Durkin does in his second feature, “The Nest,” which arrives on digital platforms on Tuesday. Durkin is keenly alert to its cold, hard, implacable tones, which run throughout the drama, dominating the action even in between the florid odes to wanting, getting, having, and spending that its human protagonists deftly and passionately deliver. The film is set expressly in the financial world in the mid-nineteen-eighties, in the same milieu as modern classics of the genre such as “Wall Street” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the age of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, which unleashed a new age of financial speculation and manipulation.
“The Nest” is set in the U.S. and the U.K., for reasons that Durkin has said are autobiographical. The movie tells a story akin to that of his own childhood—at age eleven, in the early nineties, he moved with his family from England to New York, and the culture shock that he experienced is the spark of the movie. One of the merits of “The Nest” is its shift of the action from the child’s experiences—the boy, in the movie, is named Benjamin (and played by Charlie Shotwell)—to the child’s observations of his parents and, even more (although not explicitly), to what the grownup now understands of what was going on around him and outside his immediate purview at the time.
“The Nest” is the story of a family—Rory and Allison O’Hara (Jude Law and Carrie Coon), the teen-age Samantha (Oona Roche), and the child Benjamin—being torn apart by the furious ambitions and social aspirations of its paterfamilias. At the start of the action, Rory appears to be not-working in finance in New York City: he spends an inordinate amount of time languishing fretfully and frustratedly at home (where the radio talks of President Reagan and his quotas on European chocolates) and declares to his wife, a horse trainer and equestrian teacher, that he has a good opportunity in London to, as he puts it, head up a new division of a company where he used to work. Allison objects that it would be the family’s fourth move in ten years, but Rory, who’s British, isn’t happy in the U.S. and insists that the money would be too good to pass up.
Leaving for Britain ahead of his family, Rory arranges for them to live in grand style—he rents a huge and ancient house, nearly a castle, in Surrey, that’s on grounds large enough for Allison’s horse to have romping space and a stable, which Rory hires a contractor to build. But when the other three members of the family (and the horse) arrive, the isolated estate seems to spook them all (including the horse). But Rory, swaggering like the lord of the manor, feels his very being swelling to fill the estate’s expanses. He also swaggers through his office, where he’s hailed by his colleagues as the returning prodigal rainmaker. Rory’s ambitious approach to the business,…