Chaotic 20-year-old Vivian (Thomasin McKenzie) can’t believe her luck when she inherits her grandfather’s Sydney waterfront home. Decked out with mid-century grandpa chic decor that matches Vivian’s vintage rocker aesthetic, the Art Deco home adjoins a stunning bluff overlooking the ocean.
But there’s a catch: Vivian’s cliff, with its sheer drop into the sea, is known as a place where people come to end their lives.
Vivian’s grandfather has put her in charge of rescuing these lost souls and preventing their death – a responsibility that seems insurmountable for Vivian, who can’t even seem to rein in her own self-destructive ways.
It becomes clear that if Viv takes over the property, she must face the trauma of the childhood accident that claimed her parents’ lives, mend her relationship with her brothers, and stop pushing away those who try to contact her. to make.
This six-part black comedy explores suicide, grief, isolation and the power of human connection.
Through Vivian’s character, Totally Completely Fine looks at something called complicated grief, also known as prolonged grief disorder.
Complicated grief occurs when the effects of grief remain pervasive and overwhelming, interrupting the lives of bereaved people. As expert Katherine Shear describes itthose living with complicated grief often feel they are facing a bleak future, may criticize themselves when they feel pleasure, struggle with relationships, and cope with suicidal thoughts.
Plagued by distorted flashbacks of the moments leading up to her parents’ deaths, and the associated shame and guilt, Vivian uses alcohol, drugs and casual sex to distract herself.
She takes on destruction as part of her identity, explaining to other characters that she is “a ruiner”.
She pushes away anyone who could be a source of support for her.
Her siblings have their own specific reactions to their grief. Viv’s oldest brother, John (Rowan Witt), suppresses his emotions and becomes a control freak. Her emotionally open brother, Hendrix (Brandon McClelland), devotes his life to creating the perfect family, even at the cost of his wife’s happiness.
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The tongue-in-cheek title of the show echoes through the lives of the characters as they each struggle with their own difficulties as they try to seem totally, totally okay.
Tense doctoral student Dale (Devon Terrell) struggles with anxiety. Charming paperboy Louis (Max Crean) has more to do than his cheerful demeanor suggests. Hendrix’s wife, Laura (Mia Morrissey), hides how unhappy she is about motherhood. And Amy – a “jumper” (as the show describes those who attempt suicide on the cliff edge) saves Vivian – hides the coercive controlling nature of her “perfect” fiancée.
In each of the characters’ lives, the show hints that the support they need is right next to them, but no one seems able to reach out for help. They become increasingly isolated, which increases their distress.
But John’s boyfriend, the handsome and emotionally intelligent Alejandro (Édgar Vittorino), exemplifies the compassion these characters need.
Where the relationships between Viv, John and Hendrix are weighed down by the baggage of their pasts, Alejandro demonstrates the value of actively reaching out, listening – really listening – to people and affirming their worth as individuals.
Read more: How do you ask someone you’re worried about if they’re thinking about suicide?
The taboo of psychological struggles
An old friend of Viv’s grandfather talks to her about suicide and the alienation felt by those who have tried to take their own lives.
“A lot of people think the line between them and what’s happening there (on the cliff) is thick,” she says.
“Makes them intellectualize it, treat people like they’re fucking aliens. When you and I really know that line is as thin as the goddamn wind.
One in six Australians will think about suicide at some point in their lives. It is common for people not to tell anyone about suicidal thoughts and it remains a taboo in today’s society. This can exacerbate the effects of psychological distress by increasing feelings of shame and isolation.
Totally Completely Fine opens this discussion in a human, sincere way without ever being cheesy or didactic.
As Vivian stumbles through a journey to healing, she makes mistakes and hurts the people she cares about. But the series ultimately shows the value of friendships, family and chosen family. While the characters each have their own pain to deal with, they find ways to be there for each other even when things seem hopeless.
This is a black comedy with a huge dose of heart and hope.
Totally Fine is on Stan from today.
If this article has raised any issues for you, or if you are concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline at 13 11 14.
Read more: Most people who think about suicide don’t tell anyone. Here’s why and what we can do about it