London Australian Film Festival: Top End Wedding Review
Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) and Ned (Gwilym Lee) are both lawyers, living together in Adelaide. Lauren is being worked hard by her boss (Kerry Fox) but hopes to make associate. However, Ned has an epiphany mid-court-case and quits his job and proposes to Lauren, both on the same day. So they want to get married, but Lauren has been given just a ten-day window for it to happen now. And she wants it to happen in her home city, Darwin (in the Top End of the country), with both her parents there. That’s when the problems start. Lauren’s mother Daffy (Ursula Yovich) has walked out on her father Trevor (Huw Higginson) who is given to locking himself in a cupboard and playing Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” at high volume. Meanwhile, Daffy is nowhere to be found…
Top End Wedding reunites, seven years later, the director of The Sapphires, with one of that film’s leads, Miranda Tapsell. (The Sapphires was her first film, and since then you may have seen her on TV in Cleverman, the Wolf Creek miniseries, not forgetting appearing as herself in the 2018 No Activity Christmas special.) It’s very much Tapsell’s show, as she cowrote the script (with Joshua Tyler) as well as playing the lead role. Top End Wedding is a romantic comedy where the com is certainly present though the rom has actually already happened and the goal is to secure the couple’s wedding. This is a film made by aboriginal Australian filmmakers, and like The Sapphires it puts aboriginal characters front and centre. Lauren and Ned’s search for Daffy leads her to Daffy’s original home of the Tiwi Islands, from which we see Daffy in the film’s prologue escape from in order to elope with Trevor. Over the course of the film Lauren, who has never been to her ancestral home before, learns something of her heritage.
The film is more than a little contrived in places, with a few spins on familiar romantic-comedy tropes. And there’s a cute dog called Cher (an assigned-male dog, the name being a non-binary thing, we’re told). But its heart is in the right place. Blair and his cinematographer Eric Murray Lui ensure that it’s a good looking film, mostly set in the Northern Territory and the seldom-filmed Tiwi Islands. Gwilym Lee was last seen on screen worldwide as Brian May in Bohemian Rhapsody and you wouldn’t recognise him from that film here, but he’s an engaging support to his leading lady. There’s a strong supporting cast, too: not just Kerry Fox, but also Shari Sebbens (who was also in The Sapphires), a previous award-winning actress (Tracy Mann). and a camp turn from Jason de Santis (a playwright and native Tiwi Islander) as Lauren’s one-man welcoming committee to her homeland. Top End Wedding is a definite crowd-pleaser.
Top End Wedding showed at the London Australian Film Festival. Further UK distribution is to be confirmed.