[Screen It]


(2020) (Jude Law, Carrie Coon) (R)

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Drama: An always hustling commodities trader puts a strain on his family when he moves them from New York to London and tries to impress them and others by living way beyond their means.

It's the 1980s and Rory O'Hara (JUDE LAW) is a successful commodities trader who sees greater financial opportunity in London than in the States and thus decides to move his equestrian trainer wife, Allison (CARRIE COON), and their two kids -- teenager Sam (OONA ROCHE) and her 10-year-old brother, Ben (CHARLIE SHOTWELL) -- across the pond. There, he's returning to work for firm owner Arthur Davis (MICHAEL CULKIN) but with more sway than before and immediately begins spending like that.

Not only does he pay rent for an immense mansion in the countryside, but he also gets his kids into the best schools money can buy and even has his wife's prized horse shipped from America to them. But it soon becomes apparent that he's having them live way beyond their means, something that begins to put a strain on his marriage and thus affects their kids as well.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

Stop me if you've heard this one before. An ordinary family -- a father, mother, teenage daughter, and a prepubescent son -- move to a new house. While the father is busy at work, the mom suddenly finds herself relegated to setting up the new abode, while the kids go off to school.

But something seems off about the place that the kids sense -- with the teen thinking it's just creepy while the boy is truly frightened -- and soon the weird vibe starts to affect the parents with the mom sensing the problem and the dad not seeing or simply ignoring it. Things eventually escalate to the point that the entire family dynamic begins to unravel.

That's how many a horror movie begins and then proceeds, with some of them going down the path of everyone being spooked and eventually terrified by whatever evil lurks in the house, while the others involve one of the family members changing enough -- usually due to those external forces within the home -- that they become the problem and eventual danger for everyone else. One only needs to think of a flick like "Poltergeist" as an example of the former, while "The Shining" is the showpiece for the latter.

For a while, the family drama turned figurative and literal nightmare "The Nest" seems to be heading in one of those two directions. The O'Hara family has just uprooted themselves once again and have now settled down in London after their most recent nest in the States. And they've moved into one of those old, expansive mansions that Hollywood production teams -- the cinematographer, the set designer, and so on -- love to build or otherwise retrofit for their own pleasure and hopefully ours, goose-bump style.

Dad Rory (Jude Law) is an '80s era commodities trader who's so good at what he does that he's going back to the firm where he once worked for the owner, Arthur Davis (Michael Culkin), to make that man -- and thus himself -- a lot of money.

He's assured his wife, Allison (Carrie Coon), an equestrian trainer who's now lost all of her clients with the hop across the pond, that they're rocking and rolling financially and thus not only can afford to pay a year's worth of rent on the mansion in advance, but already has his sights set on a second place. All while sending the kids -- teenager Sam (Oona Roche) and her younger brother Ben (Charlie Shotwell) -- to the best schools money can buy.

Thanks to long, lingering shots from time to time, along with some occasional standard haunted house style material -- the just-locked door suddenly being wide open, the boy freaked out at a fresh grave where there's been some subsequent activity, etc. -- it definitely feels like something supernatural is at play.

Spoiler alert -- It isn't. But I wish it had been, as while this still remains a horror film, it's of the cracking and eventual breaking of the traditional family unit variety rather than one where ghosts, demons, or other supernatural beings are the root cause of both the decay and things that go bump in the night.

Without that, the result -- while benefiting from strong performances all around -- simply becomes uncomfortable and somewhat unbearable to watch. In these troubled times, I'm not sure who would want to sit through something like this, but I guess to each their own. For me, while I appreciate the work involved, it's simply not my cup of tea. And due to my adverse reaction, "The Nest" only rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed November 16, 2020 / Posted November 20, 2020

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