On one street corner in London, an old man in a chicken suit invites people to throw eggs at him for money. Soon he becomes an online video sensation, and people come out in droves to pay for eggs and toss them at him, all while he remains stoic.
Little do they know that the chicken man is named Ernie, a lonely widower trying to make his way through the tangle of grief that has immobilized him since his wife passed away. Together the couple accumulated a nice sum of money to enjoy retirement together. But now Ernie is at a loss on how to use his nest egg without his beloved, kind wife… until his world collides with a precocious and resourceful little girl trying to win an egg decorating contest so she can buy her single mom a present for her birthday.
This charming yet emotionally grounded dramedy — directed by Lucy Patrick Ward, written by Lee Sutton and produced by Martina Silcock — could sound overly twee or whimsical on paper. But through understated yet confident directing and intelligent and emphatic writing, it achieves a remarkable balance in tone that manages to be simultaneously sardonic, heart-warming and profound.
One of the film’s chief strengths is how it doesn’t shy away from the casual minor cruelties that people can inflict upon one another, whether it’s the glee that people take in hurling eggs at an old man or how little girls can so easily destroy one another’s hopes. The storytelling doesn’t lean too heavily on these small acts of aggression, but instead lays them out in a frank, matter-of-fact way. The worldview is both realistic about humankind’s self-absorption and small-mindedness, yet with a gentle, somewhat resigned acceptance for these foibles.
This astringent view of humanity is balanced by the attention paid to both Ernie and Amy, as the camera remains focused on the inner experiences and travails of its two sensitive and empathetic main characters. Balancing multiple characters can prove tricky for any film, but especially in the compressed narrative scale of the short film format. But here the storytelling has a nimble ease, brisk pacing and a judicious and economical sense of character.
It also knows when to pause and slow down, especially as we watch Ernie grapple with his still sharp sense of grief and loss. Actor Paul Copley brings these moments to life in a truly moving, grounded way, anchoring us in the very real pain he is dealing with — which makes the unfolding of his meeting with Amy all the more lovely to unravel, as two similarly yearnings, kindly souls finally encounter one another.
“The Nest Egg” sidesteps sentimentality by stopping the story just as Ernie and Amy meet, though we assume the same spirit of generosity and benevolence that animates them both will connect them together.
But the story’s real power comes from watching two genuinely good-hearted people maintain their humane spirit in the face of the world’s indifference and low-grade meanness. A man in a chicken suit having eggs thrown at him seems silly and foolhardy at first, but in the end, it is a powerful metaphor for the courage and endurance it takes to face life’s difficulties and keep standing aloft with moral principles intact — with a little help, support and recognition by like-minded souls.