Interview: Sean Durkin, Director of THE NEST Starring Jude Law and Carrie Coon
Out today in theaters, The Nest follows a family who reluctantly moves to England at the behest of their patriarch, Rory (Jude Law). His wife, Allison (Carrie Coon), tries to resume her life but feels more alone than ever as the cracks in her marriage start to show. Meanwhile, their kids struggle with adjusting to their new life while dealing with all the joys of adolescence.
It won three awards at the Deauville American Film Festival in France last week, including the Grand Prix (the top prize of the festival), the Critics’ Prize, and the Revelation Prize.
The film is written and directed by Sean Durkin, who was also responsible for the brilliant Martha Marcy May Marlene starring Elizabeth Olsen back in 2011. I spoke with him about his latest project, and why this story was one he wanted to tell.
“I worked on a lot of stuff in-between,” says Durkin, referring to numerous producing and directing credits over the past decade (including Southcliff, a 4-part miniseries he directed for Channel 4 in the UK). “But through all that, I think this was sort of the most personal and closest to my heart.”
The director says he started writing the script back in 2014, and worked on it until things came together within the past couple of years.
“I would write for six months, then put it down, and come back to it with fresh eyes – sometimes six months later, or sometimes a year later” says Durkin. “It lived beside me through a lot of stuff, and a certain point in time my partner on the film, Rose Garnett, and I looked at a draft and said, ‘It’s ready. Let’s give it a try.’ And pulled it together pretty quickly after that.”
The film is set in England during the ’80s – a place and time the director found himself in real-life before moving to New York. “When I went back to England in 2012 to make Southcliff, I think I was reflecting on that time, and how different it was. Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, they were very different places,” he says. “I thought that would be a great backdrop for a film, and for a family to have a sudden move between the two places.”
The move is a difficult one for the characters in the film, and the filmmaker set out to explore how that would impact a marriage.
“What would that bring up within the family?”, Durkin asks of this scenario while wanting to make a family drama. “And within that, explore a marriage, and sort of ‘rules of engagement’ of a family. Look at the secrets people keep from each other, the communication, and explore the nuance of that.”
Setting the film in the ’80s started off as a reflection of the time he spent in London, but the director says it became more of a necessity as the script evolved.
“It wouldn’t be the same story today, because the move is much more seamless. And so I wanted it to be back then because of the stark difference. But I also wanted to explore some of the values of the time. And with the financial backdrop of Rory’s career, I wanted to explore the explosion of privatization in England at the time, the emerging global markets, and deregulation in the UK. So that stuff was really crucial to the backdrop, and have that sort of American dream chasing ‘bigger is better,’ and the celebration of ambition and wealth.”
Relationships and the dynamics between a husband and wife were also different back then. Durkin says, “I wanted to explore the gender roles within a marriage, and these constraints that Allison is facing. Because she’s already been divorced once, and she has to stand by her man. Those sorts of things are passed down by her family, and I felt like that was a good place and time to explore all of those things.”
The gorgeous manor in Sussex which Rory rents for his family was shot on-location, and the director says they handled finding the perfect spot like casting.
“We had to really search for it,” says Durkin. “We had a brief, and knew what we were looking for. We wanted something that was too big for a family – bigger than a successful trader working in London would have. It had to have all these things, but it couldn’t be a castle. It couldn’t be so big that we totally lose the audience.” And some of the houses they looked at were actually castles. “It was too much, so it was finding that blend. And then the other part was finding a really open interior where you could see through hallways, and through rooms. And really feel the space, and that there is something around each corner.”
The Nest is now playing in theaters.