“The Nest,” which debuted earlier this year at Sundance, stars Carrie Coon as American horseback riding instructor Allison, who’s married to British entrepreneur Rory (Jude Law). He convinces her to move back to England for a new job with his old company and sweetens the deal by buying her her own horse and building her a horse stable. He’s also rented an enormous, centuries-old country estate for her and their two children.
But nothing goes according to plan, especially for the horse named Richmond, who is used as a metaphor for this crumbling marriage. As Variety put it, “a handful of scenes involving Allison’s horse may leave permanent scars upon your psyche.”
What happens to the horse? It dies, and its death is revisited mercilessly.
There is the implication that the house is haunted: We see a door open on its own and their son is scared of parts of the house. And the horse is suddenly spooked by everything. But the only thing haunting this family is Rory’s impossible schemes.
As Rory’s grand plan to sell his new boss on key investments goes sour, the horse’s health deteriorates. Finally, Allison is forced to put the horse down.
But that’s not the end of the anguish for the family — or the audience. The funeral scene is agonizing. The limp corpse dangles from a forklift, then is unceremoniously dumped in a hole. The scene can be briefly glimpsed in the trailer above. (At a Sundance Q&A, director Sean Durkin assured the audience that no horses were harmed for the scene. It was not monitored by Humane Hollywood as it was filmed in England.)
Even more upsetting, just when you think the horse trauma is over, its body rises to the surface. In a lengthy nighttime scene, poor Allison weeps over the dead horse all over again.
During the Q&A, Durkin said that the scene did not mean Richmond had been buried alive, but wasn’t buried correctly. According to this Clemson University article, pits like this can fill with water and cause carcasses to float to the surface. And no thanks to this movie for making me Google that.
Trivia per Collider: Allison’s horse also played Jon Snow’s steed on “Game of Thrones.” His name is Tornado and he’s a Hungarian warmblood gelding.