Sean Durkin’s ‘The Nest’ (2020) perfectly encapsulates its relatively mundane narrative in an eerie blanket through a pressure cooker of intense emotions and spirals, rendering the film a Gothic psychological thriller. Following Rory O’Hara, a man with big desires who likes to take big risks in the former’s service, moves his family— wife Allison, their son Ben, and his step-daughter Sam— from America to England. In the English countryside, Rory settles his family in a massive country manor with plenty of space to spare.
However, the man’s enormous dreams come tumbling down when his best-made plans fail, sending Rory down a financial crisis that translates into ugly strain within his family. Although the film charts a pretty simplistic storyline, complex symbolism paired with subliminal tension persists throughout the plot. Thus, by the time the different elements have paid off within their capacity in the end, viewers might be left with a few questions about the film’s overall meaning. SPOILERS AHEAD!
The Nest Plot Synopsis
Rory O’Hara lives in New York in an impressive house with his wife, Allison, who works as a horseback riding instructor. He has two kids: Ben, his biological tween son with Allison, and Sam, his moody teenage stepdaughter. The O’Hara’s lead a happy life— only Rory can feel the constant itch of something missing. Therefore, the man gives in to his restlessness and calls up an old business associate, Arthur Davis, with a proposition to compel him to hire Rory in his firm.
However, Rory embellishes the story and spins it as Davis reaches out to him when regaling the incident to Allison in an effort to convince her to move their family to England. The woman, all too familiar with her husband’s ambitions and dissatisfaction with an average life, is reluctant to greenlight the move. Nevertheless, Rory’s insistence leaves his wife with no other choice.
As such, the O’Hara family packs up their possessions, Allison says goodbye to her horses, and they all move to England. Rory, who arrived earlier to make accommodations for his family, welcomes Allison and the kids to the grand mansion he has bought for them. As it would turn out, the entirely too-big-for-four mansion isn’t the only luxury Rory has indulged in, which he proves by enrolling Ben in the best school in town alongside buying Allison a car and a horse, Richmond.
Furthermore, Rory also promises to build stables for Allison so that she can continue her horse grooming and training passion without working under someone else. Meanwhile, Rory continues to work for Arthur Davis as a banker, always on the lookout for opportunities, risk, and profits. However, the man has a tendency to feign wealth around others, often lying about his family’s financial situation and background to brag about a better life. Even though Allison notices the same, she never says anything.
Nonetheless, the O’Haras can’t escape from the reality of their situation, wherein Rory’s whims have left Allison out of a job, and their family funds almost drained on his insistence on luxury. Soon, the consequences of Rory’s whirlwind move and everything that followed sneak up on the family. Yet, Rory attempts to keep everything hidden from Allison. Worse yet, he attempts to double down on his fake life of luxury by planning for a future move into a better, modern house.
As a result, Allison finally confronts Rory head-on about their dwindling family funds. Nonetheless, Rory insists that he has a big paycheque coming in due to a significant project at work. The entire reason Rory moved to England was because he wanted to get back into banking. However, his pitch of selling Davis’ company to an American firm in anticipation of market trends was moving glacially.
Thus, stuck in a financial rut, the O’Haras’ situation worsened and spiraled out of control due to their unwillingness to name the issue, especially with their kids, Sam and Ben. As such, things come crashing down after Richmond’s health declines rapidly one day, pushing the horse to the edge. Consequently, Allison, alone at home, has to get help from a nearby farmer, who shoots Richmond to put him out of his misery. Yet, the devastating news only incites annoyance in Rory, who only cares about the money he lost on a faulty horse.
The Nest Ending: Does Rory Lose His Job?
Rory’s job remains the center of the film’s conflict and narrative. Nevertheless, as much significance as Rory’s job has in the story, the viewers are told just as little about it. He’s a banker, and his job is to make investments, predict market trends, and make a profit for his company. Or rather, Davis’ company. Therein lies the crux of Rory’s character. Even though he uproots his family from their regular lives to a new reality over his job, it isn’t actually the most important thing to him.
Instead, the most important thing to Rory is wealth. The man yearns to be as rich as the men he works with, but mostly the man he works for. He wants to open his own company and make his own bets to bring fortune into his own life. Although the same is a fairly commonplace desire, Rory commits himself to it to an almost hubristic degree. He wants to be a part of the upper echelons of society so badly that he takes incredible risks to be able to afford it.
For instance, the house Rory picks, while gothic in its eeriness, is grand enough to be impressive. He sends his son, Ben, to the best school in town so he can tell others about it, but his stepdaughter goes to a regular school. In some ways, the same captures Rory’s character perfectly. He puts on an impressive show, with talks about operas and New York penthouses, all the while having only 600 pounds to his name.
In the end, Rory’s business venture ends up being more the same. Even though the man has good instincts and an eye for profit, the company he works for isn’t his. Therefore, although Davis humors his idea at first, he eventually lets him know he has no idea to follow through with it. Davis intends to keep hold of his company and won’t sell it out at the first sign of trouble in the market.
The revelation hits Rory hard since he has everything riding on this deal. Still, after a few curt words from Davis in response to his rude outburst, the man can do nothing but comply. Thus, in an effort to save his dying career, Rory steals his co-worker Steve’s idea of investing in Norwegian Fishing Farms. As such, he and Steve attend a vital casual dinner with their potential clients in a fancy English restaurant. However, Rory’s fake persona pushes Allison to the edge at the table, who ends up snapping a few times, unable to hear her husband lie about a lavish life they’ve never had.
After Allison ditches the dinner in favor of a drunken night out, Rory learns that she isn’t the only one dissatisfied with his larger-than-life persona. Even the Norwegian clients could see the desperation hiding behind his facade. As a result, they decide to do business with only Steve, leaving Rory out of it. Consequently, Rory’s last attempt at profit slips away from his fingers, breaking him under the weight of his unrealistic greed. Without the deal, Rory’s position at Davis’ company is precarious. Worse yet, his own displeasure with the incompetency will likely make him leave the job before Davis can fire him.
On the lonely cab ride home, Rory resorts to his situation, admitting to the cab driver that he only plays at being a rich man because he’s desperate to have something bigger in his life. As such, the truth begins to come out that Rory has condemned himself and his family in pursuit of his own unrelenting desires. Rory had a million dollars in his bank once, back in New York, but he wasn’t happy then, and he hasn’t been happy since it went away, either. The man is stuck in a perpetual cycle of wanting more.
What Happens to Rory’s Family?
Rory’s family takes the brunt of his dysfunctionality. In their parents’ absence, Sam hosts a wild party to fit in with the local teenagers her age, while Sam is left alone, unable to discuss his problems with anyone. Even after the boy accidentally stumbles across Richmond’s dead husk, peeking out of its hastily dug grave, he can only hide himself in a secret room.
By the time Allison returns home, well after daybreak, the house is a mess, and so are her kids. Yet, once she glimpses at Richmond’s grave, her own mental breakdown takes precedence, leaving the kids to fend for their own breakfast. In the end, Rory finally returns home after walking the entire way. When he greets his family, they are in a bleak scene, held together with breakfast in the dining room.
Rory attempts to return to his false grandeur, bringing up his plans to move to a flat in London. Yet, this time, Allison compels him to stop with only a few words. Considering Allison had been weary of the move from the start and had the presence of mind to keep cash stowed in a secret box before arriving in England, we can conclude that the woman predicted such an outcome.
Despite their differences, Allison knows Rory just as she knows how poisonous his ambition is for the family. Similarly, Sam and Ben are likely no strangers to their father’s reality either. Still, no matter where Rory’s desires or Allison’s breakdowns leave their family, they manage to come together again. Therefore, after their recent catastrophe, the O’Haras sit together for breakfast, even if the air is thick with tension. Rory has lost everything, and Allison has been drained of her patience and a stable life. Thus, the only thing they have left is their family.
Read More: Is The Nest a True Story?