Top End Wedding is another breath of fresh air into the romantic comedy genre. Wayne Blair integrates the theme of cultural identity with this love story. It’s a mesh that works very well thanks to a great script from writer and lead Miranda Tapsell and Joshua Tyler.
Prosecutor Ned (Gwilym Lee) proposes to his girlfriend Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) who has just been promoted to associate partner at her business firm. He refrains from also informing her that he has left his job due to how unhappy he is with it. Lauren’s tough boss Hampton (Kerry Fox) informs Lauren that she has 10 days to get married before coming back to work. Forced into a quick wedding, Lauren persuades Ned to fly up from the south coast of Adelaide up to the North (Top End) of Australia so she can be married around her family. The only hitch in all their plans? Laurens mother Daffy (Ursula Lovich) has disappeared, leaving her dad Trevor (Huw Higginson) alone and a wreck at the family home.
There is no doubt that this is an enjoyable film and the great little jokes spread throughout allow for the audience to settle in with ease as the filmmakers attempt the sometimes precarious job of telling a story that isn’t just romantic comedy based. A film like The Broken Hearts Gallery did this well with their added theme of Alzemhiers. Here we focus on the culture that has been lost when generations leave the island or region they are from. This is a theme that should connect with many both those from a similar place as Lauren and those who are not. But can maybe look back at their familial roots to enjoy.
Tapsell and Lee are terrific here and you buy their seemingly chaotic relationship. You can see them happily bounce off each other with both giving times for their performances and arcs to breathe. There is an interesting dynamic of not having Lee portray an Australian himself. This perhaps was to show how much cultures can be respected. The character of Ned is fish out of water in every sense. He is not from the country and only knows perhaps what Lauren has told him.
Tapsell excels here and is a true delight throughout, allowing her character to be more than the light-hearted rom-com girl. She allows her character to have strong moments as well as ones where she can still be warm and a character we can stand with for the next 100 minutes. She is forthright and able to take control of situations due to her intelligence. This is a film that allows all of its female cast to shine.
A very brief example is that while Lauren is off finding her mother. Her friends and bridesmaids are planning the wedding. Yes, they argue with each other in the standard way, but they are organised. As they would be in real life. There is a double-sided whiteboard showing the thoughts and planning that they have been working on. That is a subtle touch that works so well to help you fully enjoy the overall picture. The ditzy types are almost all given to the male characters here. Where Lauren has her quirks, she is effective at her job. Ned on the other hand is a tad manic in his thinking, he may be a lawyer, but he is also a bit of an idiot. The scene when he meets Trevor highlights that pretty well.
While Top End Wedding could have meshed the drama of the film in earlier into proceedings to help the film hit those high notes when it does get serious. This doesn’t stop or derail your enjoyment of the overall piece. As the cast can relay the poignancy of the story superbly. Early on we are given glimpses of the heart that is in the film. In simple scenes as Ned and his brother and mother in the car going to the airport with Lauren. They briefly talk about Ned’s dad and the acting of the cast elevates that moment to not just be an off the cuff remark.
The small moments are probably where the film works best, as these small moments build-up. Small deliveries of the lines that eventually affect you by the time we get towards the end. Of course, we have the stereotypical stuff of a romantic comedy. You can’t step away from those, the whole arc of Ned maybe going back home and feels false. Yet very few films can effectively get away with these moments as they are so telegraphed now. What makes Top End Wedding succeed is that they add humour and heart into those moments that you instantaneously forgive it.
In truth, there are some aspects of Australian culture that I was unaware of before watching the film. To be introduced to the Northside of Australia in Darwin and the Tiwi Islands here was a pleasant surprise and one that will for sure cause a rabbit hole moment for the next while. Thankfully for those in a similar position Miranda Tapsell is our perfect guide into the indigenous Australian world in film with her being quite the prominent figure.
The idea that not only are some of the audience seeing this wonderful side to Australia for the first time so is Lauren. The idea that she was raised in Darwin. But did not fully know her roots from the island brings a touch of awareness that sometimes we should go back and look at our roots, where our families came from, to visit there and learn.
It is appreciated that usually in films like this. We have a character return to their cultural roots for a wedding or event. That all of the stories are generally light-hearted with a touch of someone saying that said person does not belong and should leave. You get the light-hearted part here. However, writers Tapsell and Tyler are more interested in bringing in the theme of belonging and appreciation and it works wonders here in the third act.
Without a doubt, Top End Wedding is a crowd-pleaser that becomes an accessible gateway for some audience unaware of how culturally diverse Australia is. This is a film that wears its heart on its sleeve and you wouldn’t want it any other way.
Signature Entertainment presents Top End Wedding on Digital HD from November 23rd.
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