Review: Top End Wedding
(M) Miranda Tapsell, Gwilym Lee, Kerry Fox, Huw Higginson
If you want to forget how much you crave home, whether that be a place, a person, or family, and that feeling of warmth and familiarity then this film isn’t for you.
But if you are willing, Top End Wedding will gently take you by the hand and lead you through laughs, tears, and a tinge of nostalgia to a feel good story of coming home.
The film follows Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) and Ned (Gwilym Lee) who are newly engaged and have ten days to plan and put on their wedding. It’s Lauren’s dream to get married in her hometown in Darwin, so the couple takes the next flight from Adelaide to the Northern Territory. Once they arrive, they find that Lauren’s mum has gone missing with only a handwritten note vaguely saying that she needed to leave.
Encountering wedding stress, a distraught dad, and an AWOL mum, Lauren is quickly confronted with the fact that marriage may not be the joyous celebration she hoped for. Not giving up, Lauren and Ned set off to find Lauren’s mother, an adventure that has them both questioning whether there will even be a wedding.
Miranda Tapsell co-wrote and is the executive producer of the film and the result is a romantic comedy that really is her love letter to Australia. The 70s soundtrack mixed with modern and traditional indigenous musicians complemented the backdrop of the natural beauty of the Northern Territory captured by cinematographer Eric Murray Lui. The glimpses of Tiwi Islands, Darwin and Kakadu, will leave you in awe so much so, it won’t be surprising if the territory will see a tourism boom coming up to dry season (the best time to visit the NT, FYI).
Tapsell’s performance is authentic and so is the on-screen chemistry with the film’s supporting lead Gwilym Lee (Bohemian Rhapsody). Huw Higginson (Picnic at Hanging Rock) portrayal of Lauren’s father is endearing and a definite standout.
With the central message of home and family the film easily resonates and transcends cultural barriers. Top End Wedding successfully navigates the struggle about identity and is grounded in the rich indigenous cultural history of the land. Although the film doesn’t delve into the colonial influence of missionaries in these remote indigenous communities, the film touches on how today there is still Christian faith intertwined with tradition of these communities. It would have been an interesting exploration if the film commented further about this tension however it would be a different film entirely.
Another noteworthy inclusion although brief was of indigenous LGBTQI community. This is important onscreen representation, that hasn’t always been addressed in Australian film.
It isn’t the perfect film, with some awkward scenes and line delivery. But for the most part the script was free flowing. Thanks to Director Wayne Blair’s (The Sapphires) flair the film is propelled past script pitfalls and rom-com tropes to a destination that is heart-warmingly satisfying.
Top End Wedding may not be the perfect film but is a proud Indigenous Australian film that reminds us of just how connected we are and recognising the beauty in that.
Top End Wedding is in cinemas now.