FEARNET Movie Review: 'Nothing Bad Can Happen'


"It's an unpleasant film with a noble message," is how a friend described the new German film Nothing Bad Can Happen to me before I watched it, and not only did I agree with the man's assessment -- I found it one of the most compelling and quietly unsettling thrillers in quite some time. Incidentally, that man was Tim League, whose Drafthouse Films acquired the U.S. rights to Nothing Bad Can Happen about a week later. That's called putting your money where your mouth is.

A devious and slyly intelligent psychological thriller about the value of faith versus the power of nihilism, Nothing Bad Can Happen is about an aimless young religious zealot who, through a strange series of events, finds himself living with a "normal" suburban family -- a family that clearly does not share his religious beliefs. At first young Tore (Julian Felmeier) butts heads with patriarch Benno (Sascha Gersak), avoids the attentions of mother Astrid (Annika Kuhl), and strikes up a tentative friendship with teenage daughter Sanny (Swantje Kohlhof) -- but it doesn't take long before the self-professed "Jesus Freak" gets under the skin of the entire clan. 
Outstandingly confident first-time writer/director Katrin Gebbe is interested in every side of the argument. Some folks bristle at the first sight of piety, holiness, and "pushy" religion; others are able to get past the initial oddness and get to the root of why people (sometimes very lonely people) rely on faith so heavily. There's no doubt that Nothing Bad Can Happen is meant to be an ironic title -- indeed the film occasionally delves into some truly dark places -- but this is not a film in which "religion" is bad and the "free thinkers" are smart. Nor is it a film with any sort of pre-fabricated religious agenda; it's simply a dark and thoughtful film with a legitimately challenging and worthwhile message.
Nothing Bad Can Happen is a dour and sometimes shocking dramatic thriller, but the tone, the performances, and (especially) the screenplay take great pains to showcase both the darker, meaner side of human nature -- and the goodness that can sometimes blossom after evil has been done. It'd be inaccurate to call Nothing Bad Can Happen a full-bore "horror film" (although frankly it's somewhat reminiscent of Martyrs at its most unsettling moments) but it's certainly dark, disturbing, and challenging enough to warrant some attention from genre fans.