A radiant black stallion crests the fields beyond a rickety Surrey mansion, oblivious and regal. It is a vast, open countryside. Colors linger here, but only vaguely. Enough to form shapes and lines; enough to give form to the people indoors. A family of four: father, mother, daughter, son. Together in a haunted house. But their house isn’t haunted by ghosts; rather by their erosion, a nuclear family gone rotten from displacement and mirage. Their American Dream curdles when it travels elsewhere. Out of jurisdiction, it becomes a nightmare.
Jude Law plays Rory O’Hara, an Englishman who lives with his American family in New York in a vague timeline that is likely the late 1980s. His wife Allison (Carrie Coon) runs a horse stable, his teenage stepdaughter Samantha (Oona Roche) is in the midst of adolescent malaise, and his son Benjamin (Charlie Shotwell) is a nervous wreck of a child. They’re more or less content in New York, but Rory has delusions of grandeur. He was raised in a poor family—so was Allison—but schemed his way to a wealth he’s since pissed away. Still, he knows he can make amends in his homeland. So he packs up the family and moves them into a dilapidated mansion in Surrey.
Allison is immediately suspicious of this new life. The house doesn’t feel right. It’s too big for the four of them; it seems to swallow them whole. Meanwhile, Rory plays the part of a rich man. He schemes his way through business opportunities, looking for that next big deal. When Allison learns that he lied to the family about the job opportunity that uprooted the family—he pitched his way into his new office, not vice versa—she doesn’t say a word. She is Rory’s coconspirator, after all. Someone who’s watched his lies mount and disrupt their family order for at least a decade. She’s as culpable as he is at this point, and she knows it. The film is her slowly realizing the bed she’s made—and what those choices mean to a wife and mother.
If Durkin’s imagination is the foundation, the performances are the glue; and what tremendous performances they are. Jude Law is at the top of his game as Rory, whose lies and manipulation fall around him like a house of cards from beginning to end. He’s so tightly wound that when the seams come undone, he’s utterly unpredictable—and instantly riveting. And then there’s Carrie Coon. I could write a love poem about her performance here. There are shades of Gena Rowlands in the way she wears shoulder pads and holds a cigarette. In her doomed expressions and knowing glances. “You’re embarrassing,” Rory tells Allison at one point. “And you’re exhausting,” she fires back. It’s a malicious tête-à-tête, and Law and Coon are profound in how they sell these desperate people—bound together by great love and great hatred. Isn’t that marriage?
But there’s nothing there. Nothing but the absence of two parents, engaged in their own private war. And all the things left unsaid that gather like cobwebs. That rot a house worse than spirits might. That’s the horror of