“A story based on all the shit that happened.”
Thus begins the new SBS Digital Original, A beginner’s guide to pain, written and performed by Anna Lindner, a collection of short films shown as 1.25hrs on SBS VICELAND.
Hooked on the five stages of grief – Denial / Anger / Bargaining / Depression and Acceptance – Lindner plays Harriet ‘Harry’ Wylde, whose ailing father (Glynn Nicholas) dies on the day of her mother Diane’s (Caitlin McDougall) funeral.
Shortly before his death, his father reveals that neither parent believed in God nor rotted for eternity in the cold, hard ground, which is at odds with the elaborate plans his flustered family has in store. They include Aunt Barb (Georgina Naidu), undertaker cousin Isaiah (Carlo Ritchie), along with Uncle Trev, a Lutheran priest (Rory Walker).
“It’s okay Harry. The men will take it from here,” Trev will remind her.
Escaping this comedy of errors, a numb Harry seeks solace in a set of “self-help” tapes his mother left behind on an old Walkman.
He’s also reacquainted with fellow Gen Z Daisy (Cassandra Sorrell), a foster child who was adopted by her mother but was recently released from prison after a bout of pyromania. Daisy is certainly a living thread in Harry’s world.
As funeral plans spiral out of control, Harry becomes increasingly rebellious.
“They’re my parents, I should be able to decide how they go,” she insists.
Together with Daisy he begins to distract himself with alcohol, late at night contemplating the universe, sleeping in the bathtub and smoking cigarettes on a sofa bed in the garden (an image that almost replicated another SBS Digital, Homecoming Queens).
There are flashes of whimsy with mum and dad, glimpses of Adelaide’s Oktoberfest, references to ‘witch lesbians’ and themes of womanhood via a mural created by Harry which has been defaced with graffiti.
As Gen Z’s answer to death and religion, it comes anarchically under the direction of director Renee Mao. Anna Lindner is understandably cynical as Harry, in contrast to the rambunctious Cassandra Sorrell, while Georgina Naidu was a welcome light touch.
The story is strongest in dark comedic moments rather than contemplation, but if Digital Originals are about discovering new talent, then I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Special thanks to Glynn Nicholas for returning to our screens in a dramatic role, even more would be nice.
A Beginner’s Guide to Grief airs Sunday at 9.20pm on SBS VICELAND.