Top End Wedding is a modern Australian movie.
It’s a great example of what we produce now, smart, funny, with a point, and a story well told. It’s a sweet love story with the dramatic backdrop of the Northern Territory – from Darwin to Katherine and the Tiwi Islands – it’s a great advertisement for Australian Tourism.
The film begins in downtown Adelaide – a rare choice for an Australian film – and the charm begins there. Watching the film made me realise how far Australian cinema has come over the past few years. No longer do we feel the need for characters who are parodies of larger-than-life Australians. We are now settled into the reality of a nation of diverse characters and culture. Miranda Tapsell stars in and has co-written the script (with Joshua Tyler), and has produced the film. She’s pulled off a real Aussie rom-com. It’s fresh and light and a total delight from start to finish. The characters all have heart. Tapsell plays lead Lauren Ford, who is a lawyer, just promoted to an associate position by Hampton (Kerry Fox), or Cruella, as Lauren’s partner Ned calls her. Ned is played by Gwilym Lee just fresh from his role as Queen lead guitarist Brian May in Bohemian Rhapsody. He may also be familiar to Midsomer Murder fans, as a onetime sidekick of Inspector Barnaby.
It is a modern love story – Lauren’s career on the up. Ned’s career (also as a lawyer) is foundering. Time to get married. Lauren’s workaholic boss Hampton gives her a few days off, Ned’s not busy (as he’s thrown in his job) so why not!
Lauren’s family is from the Territory and she knows she has always wanted to get married on her family land. Ned is happy to please her and so they head up to her parents’ home. And that’s when the adventure begins. Lauren’s mum Daffy has gone missing, her dad is not coping and there’s not going to be a wedding unless the whole family can be there.
Huw Higginson is perfect as her floundering father – missing his wife but feeling too lost to find her. The wonderful Ursula Yovich plays his wandering wife. Lauren’s warm and wacky friends are played by STC favourite Shari Sebbens, singer-songwriter Elaine Crombie and comedienne Dalara Williams.
Tapsell is mesmerising and as with every role she plays on stage or in film she commands the viewers’ attention. In this, she is witty, whip-smart and the woman we all want to be or want to be with. In fact, these are all characters we connect with and really like. We care about how everything turns out, we care about whether they will be OK in the end. We want them to be happy and we want a happy ending for them all.
The landscape, the Indigenous history and culture are all major players in the film. The pull of family and the importance of roots is a focus of the film. It is as though we’re invited to witness the songs, the dances, the traditions and the people of her heritage as guests at a wedding. We see Australia as we’ve rarely seen it before. We fly into the Tiwi Islands, we drive and take trips down the river at Katherine Gorge. It’s stunning scenery; it’s big while the love story is small but together they are more than the sum of their parts. Part rom-com, part road movie, with a little bit of Chicago, a group of girlfriends we’d all love to have on our side, and a road trip through the Territory, Top End Wedding really does have it all.
Will they find Daffy? Can they pull off the wedding of their dreams? Does love conquer all?
This is a film for everyone.