“What happens when you can’t stand the way your sibling does just about anything, but you’re forced to be with them during your father’s last days on Earth?” Upon reading that sentence, I was fully intrigued to watch this film because of my own personal experiences with sibling rivalry and the consistent quest of alleviating it. From the beginning, Nothing to Do showcases the honest and conflicting truth of dealing with the death of a loved one. It also brings up the inevitability of having to be around people you wouldn’t otherwise because of familial bonds. The leading character, Kenny (Paul Fahrenkopf), seems to be living a mundane and repetitive life as a Philadelphia radio DJ.
He finds out unexpectedly that his father is deathly sick, hospitalized multiple times in the past year, and is assigned to being the primary hospice caretaker in just a day, fully disrupting his routine. Kenny’s disparity and acceptance that shows on his face when receiving the news truly shows the burden of love one must take on when taking care of the sick or dying. It is both worth it and extraordinarily painful; the chance and task of a lifetime. Kenny’s father, Irv, played (Philip Lawton), is charming and sarcastic between his pain and suffering. Early on you can see he’s using humor to numb his growing fear of death and his deterioration. Rachel, Kenny’s sister (Connie Bowman), comes in like a whirlwind on screen, creating tension with her busybody anxiousness, emotional distance from her brother and committed denial of the truth. Connie does a great portrayal of a person who is high strung and anxious because they are running from the naked reality that can feel like a raw nerve. Running from the truth is a human experience, but some of us make denial our masters.
The sibling tension between Rachel and Kenny is one decades in the making, displayed by the sophomoric yet endearing way they still call and respond to each other. Even their body language changes into youthful familiarity, although both are grown adults. With each remark, they remind us that family pathologies stay consistent unless changed. Kenny is perceived to be more carefree than his sister, but also has his demons with self indulgence, drugs, denial in coping with reality. Facing the truth feels like an abrupt and painful process when unexpected for them both, although they may judge each other’s decisions.
The movie overall does a great job in sharing the honest and messy shortcomings, regrets and issues humans have in general. Life is both messy and beautiful and so is death. It touches on the sacrifices people make when dealing with familial tragedies and how complicated that may be. It touches on the complexities of life and its experiences, how you can laugh in the midst of tragedy or fall in love through grief. Director Mike Kravinsky creates a beautiful tug-of-war between each layer of emotion that we all share in the human experience. He confronts the issues of control through drug abuse and denial of reality, and how experiential truths we may have learned as children affect our everyday lives later on.
Nothing To Do is shot like a classic and emotional independent film, with a genuine and heartwarming cast and plot points. My own story of taking care of a loved one before death seemed showcased in this, although the circumstances were different. It’s a universal film that anyone can empathize with and enjoy. I recommend this film for anyone who wants to feel like the messiness of life can be alright, eventually with working through the muck of it all.