Capsule reviews: The Nest, Martin Eden, 12 Hour Shift, and Alone

While much of my viewing and writing in recent weeks has centered around the Toronto International Film Festival and the New York Film Festival (more to come on the latter soon), I did have time to watch a few new releases. Here are four recommended films to watch at home.

The Nest

Opening in theaters (outside of Buffalo) on September 18 and VOD November 17 (more info)

Is marital drama The Nest a downer? Some will make that argument, but that is a surface-level look at a film that deserves a much deeper exploration. I found it to be darkly fascinating, always involving, and anchored by two powerhouse performances, from Jude Law and Carrie Coon. They play a 1980s-era married couple who move to England for his job, leasing a mammoth country house. Soon, their marriage is failing, their kids are floundering, and don’t even ask about the horses. The Nest is the latest from Martha Marcy May Marlene director Sean Durkin, and it shares that film’s somber, mysterious power. It is one of the year’s best films. [A-]

Martin Eden

Available on virtual cinema (trailer)

The Platform program at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival featured a number of very well-reviewed films, among them Sound of Metal, Proxima, Rocks, and Anne at 13,000 Ft. But the film that took home the Platform Prize was Martin Eden, a Jack London adaptation from director Pietro Marcello. It is not hard to see why, as the Naples-set reimagining of the novel is a swoon-worthy visual stunner. The impressive Luca Marinelli stars as Eden, who attempts to attain fame as a writer in order to woo a woman far beyond his station. Key moments here seem to lack the dramatic strength that would move Eden from good to great, yet it remains an intriguing film. Its final tragic moments feel inevitable — if a tad predictable. Nevertheless, this is a beautiful, often stirring drama [B] 

12 Hour Shift

Available through the North Park Theatre and on-demand (more info)

Brea Grant’s 12 Hour Shift ranks among the wildest and most deliciously nasty releases of recent months. And perhaps the time is right for such a thing. Angela Bettis plays a nurse caught up in organ trafficking whose night takes an even-rougher-than-usual turn when a convict is brought to the hospital. Grant also wrote the film, and deserves major kudos for making subject matter this dark feel hilarious and genuinely entertaining. The final moments, especially, are note-perfect. [B+]

Alone

Available through the North Park Theatre and on-demand (more info)

The first half hour of Alone, a new thriller from director John Hyams, has a positively Duel vibe — and that’s a good thing. The film eventually pivots from the Spielberg-esque mysterious follower motif, and becomes less interesting. Yet there is still plenty to recommend about the film, which stars Jules Wilcox as a woman traveling alone and being followed by a Ned Flanders-ish creep. Wilcox is phenomenal here, proving herself a star-in-the-making. It is imperfect, to be sure, but Alone is a solid, sturdy thriller. [B-]