You would be forgiven for not having heard of Sean Durkin. The director made something of a splash in the indie scene with his 2011 mind-bender Martha Marcy May Marlene before promptly disappearing from filmmaking entirely, popping up every few years to helm a music video or television program. I, for one, had forgotten about him entirely.

I’d like to think of The Nest as his message for everyone who had written him off as a one-hit wonder, but to consign it to such a low purpose is to do an utter disservice to the film. Durkin’s second feature taps into the stream of brilliance that only opens itself up to artists once in a lifetime, perhaps even less.

Jude Law stars as Rory, a charismatic investment banker of sorts, along side Carrie Coon as Allison, a career horse trainer and Rory’s wife. Despite the relative comfort of his life in New York, an opportunity arises for Rory back in his home country of England too good not to take — bringing his American family along with him. In all his extravagance, Rory rents out a centuries-old castle for his family to live in, sends his son Benjamin (Charlie Shotwell) to an elite boys’ school, and begins building a stable for Allison as he starts his job at a fancy London firm.

All of these descriptors fail the film. Durkin achieves a tonal precision in these films reminiscent of Todd Field, or Stanley Kubrick before him, and it’s one that defies explanation through words — the ultimate, often unspoken goal of filmmaking. Tragedy seems to loom in The Nest, as though something awful is always prepare to rise above an ever-bubbling surface. Durkin is not toying with the audience, however: nothing is ever unfairly telegraphed, nor are any tricks played. The movie is sealed tight, evading every attempt by the audience to fully pin it down.

To say that The Nest is “about” anything is to smudge part of the film in favor of magnifying another — this isn’t to say that Durkin doesn’t have some key artistic considerations he’s pursuing, because he absolutely does, only that the film functions as such a cohesive whole that the process of interpretation becomes a kind of flattening. Both Law and Coon have crafted their characters into fully realized human beings, and Oona Roche deserves particular praise for the depth she brings to Sam, Allison’s daughter from a previous relationship.

Mátyás Erdély‘s cinematography is also something to behold, but this will be no surprise to anyone familiar with his work. At various moments in The Nest, I was certain I was watching an allegory about financial deregulation, international relations, toxic masculinity, fatherhood and about a dozen other different themes as well — I’m not sure I was ever wrong, but I was certainly never entirely right.

The Nest is a singular piece of art, one so simple as to be accessible by all but so thematically complex as to be genuinely read by very few. It will not appeal to everyone’s tastes — its merits rest in that treacherous valley between the tangible and the abstract — but it’s a movie that manages to compel in spite of its thorns. It is, in short, a poem.

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