The Nest has the plot and setting of a horror movie, but without any of the actual horror scares. That's by design, and if you go in expecting to be frightened, you're bound to be disappointed. But if you view it as a domestic drama, you'll find it's one of the best-made movies of the year.
Jude Law stars as Rory, a dutiful stay-at-home dad. He plays soccer with his son, drops off the kids at school, and always wakes up his wife Allison (Carrie Coon) with a cup of coffee and a kiss. But tired of the good-enough cars and adequate house, he convinces them to move to England, where he made his career before settling down in America. He buys an enormous farm in Surrey, and promises to build stables for Allison, who trains horses. But just like any haunted house movie, creepy and unexplained things start happening to everyone. Locked doors mysteriously open; a traumatic death occurs; hallways seem to be darker, colder and scarier as the film goes on. Yet the only malevolent forces present are resentment and greed.
Like in The Amityville Horror or Poltergeist, the patriarch of the family is the last to realize how the house is destroying his family and himself. Law is giving his best dramatic performance in years, playing a man obsessed with merging "the American Dream" with British snobbery, constantly trying to dazzle his family and colleagues with expensive gifts while burning through cash faster than he can earn it. He's addicted to excess, and can't admit it to himself or anyone else.
Coon is his equal on the screen, deeply resentful of the husband who's never home, who upended their (mostly) happy life for a shot at proving his worth to fellow Brits he didn't even like. When they have a big blow-up at a fancy dinner, it's a rush, as she sheds the symbols of their new life, and gets drunk at a dive bar and dances to "Don't Leave Me with This Way." The music in the film is particularly excellent. It's filled with the expected '80s hits, but every use is diegetic. And the moody score by Richard Reed Perry is one of the best of the year.
The more I think about The Nest, the more I like it. It withholds everything you expect but has rewards for patient viewers.