Moving abroad is an idea South Africans are becoming increasingly familiar with. While generally associated with feelings of excitement and adventure, director Sean Durkin’s powerful second feature, THE NEST, explores a different angle – the family dynamics and emotional upheaval of such a move.

Set in the 1980s, a decade synonymous with unbridled capitalism and unseemly excess, the film tells the story of the O’Hara family, who live a seemingly great life in a New York suburb. At first glance they appear to be just another ordinary, upwardly mobile American family. But when the father gets the opportunity to move back to his native England for a tantalising employment opportunity, the cracks start to show.

For the charismatic Rory O’Hara (Jude Law), the move is apparently a dream come true. However, for his wife, Allison (Carrie Coon), and the couple’s two children, Samantha (Oona Roche) and Ben (Charlie Shotwell), it presents an extreme version of culture shock.

While all four family members experience their own personal miseries – Ben is bullied and Sam rebels – the film ultimately revolves around Rory and Allison. As the promise of a lucrative new beginning starts to unravel, the couple have to face the unwelcome truths lying beneath the surface of their marriage.

Rory is a man with something to prove; he believes success is an image you project and an ideal you chase. Allison, while outwardly trying to roll with the punches and be a supportive wife and mother, is inwardly conflicted.

Law and Coon offer outstanding performances and give their characters so much shared history, which they masterfully communicate without saying a word. The film also stars Adeel Akhtar, Michael Culkin and Anne Reid.

The film’s visual style – beautifully composed wide shots and lighting that speaks volumes more than any dialogue could – was crafted by director of photography Mátyás Erdely and makes the film truly compelling to watch.

THE NEST is a tense and absorbing drama that explores themes of masculinity, gender roles and family structure by examining a family at a very specific time and place. However, many of the themes are universal and very relevant today. It also offers a sober view of the disintegration of the middle-class dream and its impact on those for whom that dream becomes a nightmare.

The film is distributed by Filmfinity (Pty) Ltd. and will be released in South African cinemas on 25 December 2020.

Watch the trailer here: