A Beginner’s Guide to Grief

When both her parents pass in one week, Harriet's problems are only just starting in a new SBS Original drama.

“A story based on all the shit that went down.”

So begins new SBS Digital Original, A Beginner’s Guide to Grief, written by and starring Anna Lindner, a collection of shorts screening as 1.25hrs on SBS VICELAND.

Hooked around the five stages of grief -Denial / Anger / Bargaining / Depression and Acceptance- Lindner plays Harriet ‘Harry’ Wylde, whose ailing father (Glynn Nicholas) expires on the day of her mother Diane’s (Caitlin McDougall) funeral.

Just before his death, her father reveals that neither parent believed in God nor rotting for eternity in the cold hard ground, which is at odds with the elaborate plans her fussing family has in store. They include Aunty Barb (Georgina Naidu), undertaker cousin Isaiah (Carlo Ritchie), along with Uncle Trev, a Lutheran priest (Rory Walker).

“It’s all good Harry. The men will take it from here,” Trev will remind her.

Escaping this comedy of errors, a numb Harry seeks solace in a series of ‘self-help’ tapes her mother left behind on an old Walkman.

She also is reacquainted with fellow Gen Z Daisy (Cassandra Sorrell), a foster child who was adopted by her mother but who has been recently released from prison after a bout of pyromania. Daisy is certainly a live wire in Harry’s world.

As funeral plans spiral beyond her control, Harry becomes increasingly rebellious.

“They’re my parents I should be able to decide how they go,” she insists.

Together with Daisy she begins to distract herself with alcohol, late nights contemplating the universe, sleeping in the bath and smoking cigarettes on a backyard daybed (an image that almost replicated another SBS Digital, Homecoming Queens).

There are flashes of fantasy with mum and dad, glimpses of Adelaide’s Oktoberfest, references to “witch lesbians” and themes of womanhood via a mural Harry created which has been defaced with graffiti.

As a Gen Z response to death and religion it lands anarchically under director Renee Mao. Anna Lindner is understandbly cynical as Harry, contrasted by the rambunctious Cassandra Sorrell, while Georgina Naidu was a welcome light touch.

The story is stronger in the dark comedic moments rather than contemplation but if Digital Originals are about uncovering new talent, then I also look forward to seeing what’s next.

A special shout-out to Glynn Nicholas for returning to our screens in a dramatic role -more of that would also be beaut.

A Beginner’s Guide to Grief airs 9:20pm Sunday on SBS VICELAND.

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