We’re back this month with another Aboriginal passion project Miranda Tapsell and Wayne Blair’s 2019 film, Top End Wedding.
I’m not a romantic comedy fan at all, it is, in fact, probably one of my most hated genres. However, back in the olden days (when we were allowed to go to the cinema) I saw a trailer for this movie in the previews whilst I was seeing Ride Like a Girl (which is a great movie, which I will review for this series sooner or later). And I was instantly in love with the concept. I mean, it’s a romantic comedy set in my most favourite place on earth, the Top End of Australia.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I finally got this movie out from the library a few months ago, watched it and absolutely loved it. So much so that I instantly texted one of my best friends and told her to watch it. She watched it the next night and also adored it. And neither of us are huge romcom fans.
Also, I’ve noticed that a lot of the massive rush of support for Black and oppressed voices that flooded the internet in June has abated somewhat. I want to continue advocating for these people in whatever way I can, even once its no longer a trend to do so. Since I specialise in storytelling here, I will continue to show my support for minority groups by hyping and sharing their stories as much as I can. And I’ll not only be reviewing and sharing this movie with you guys today, but I’ve got several more Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander books and films to share over the next few months. Obviously, not every Australia One Story At A Time installment will focus on Indigenous works, but I want to give Australia’s original owners the attention they deserve.
Okay, let’s get into this.
The plot is basic, but so very charming. Essentially, Lauren (Miranda Tapsell), a recently promoted Adelaide lawyer of Tiwi Islander descent, and her white boyfriend, Ned (Gwilym Lee), are getting married. Lauren’s tough boss gives her ten days off in order to complete the ceremony, which is fine, until Lauren decides she wants to get married in her hometown of Darwin.
Ned thinks she’s crazy, but he loves her, so he agrees to a wedding in Darwin, which has to be organised in only ten days.
Of course, everything goes south when they arrive in Darwin only to discover that Lauren’s mother has gone walkabout, leaving her father inconsolable. Lauren, understandably, can’t face the thought of getting married without her mother there, so she and Ned set off on a trip to discover her mother’s whereabouts. Of course, this leads to a lot of shenanigans that are at once staple romcom tropes, and also uniquely Australian plot points.
It has a happy ending, but I’m not going to spoil it for you.
This movie was written by Miranda Tapsell and Joshua Tyler, and it’s heavily based on Miranda’s experiences as a young Aboriginal woman of Tiwi Islander descent, she also plays the main character, Lauren and clearly had a lot of love and passion for this project. It’s also directed by Wayne Blair, a talented Aboriginal director who you might remember from my Mystery Road post, as he both directed and played a side character/suspect in that series.
Basically, this is a movie that is the passion project of several Aboriginal men and women, stars an almost exclusively black cast, and is accessible and enjoyable to both Aboriginal and white audiences. Which I think is fantastic.
What Did I Think of The Story?
As I’ve already said, I adored it. The story was the perfect mixture of comedy and serious, beautiful reflections on family, heritage, and culture.
The actors were also brilliant and also very underrated. Miranda Tapsell and Huw Higginson were the only ones I’d heard of before, since I’ve seen them in other films and TV shows, but even then I don’t really know much about them. However, they all did a great job and were really enjoyable to watch. Gwilym Lee, the English actor who played Ned, was very good, and I enjoyed the dynamic between his very proper British family and the much more laidback white and Aboriginal families.
The plot was exceptional and I loved it so much, especially because it focused on family and reconciliation and the symbolic merging of cultures that happens throughout the movie.
Essentially, I loved everything about this movie and if you want to hear me squeal about it more, let me know in the comments!
This whole thing was basically an homage to Australian culture. Everything, from the jokes to the scenery, to the slang and the swearing was all so, so Australian.
One of my favourite scenes has Ned, the naive Englishman that he is, having a jolly old time in a creek, before noticing a derelict looking sign in some debris, picking it up and then fleeing the water as he reads “Warning Crocodiles”. I find this absolute hilarious because almost this scenario happened to my dad when we went up to northern Australia for the first time and it’s been a family joke for almost ten years.
There’s also another absolutely stunning scene where Lauren goes on a boat ride through Nitmiluk Gorge (also known as Katherine Gorge) and the scenery is just…absolute perfection.
And finally, the best thing about this movie was just how sincere it was in it’s presentation of Aboriginal Australia. The creators didn’t have an agenda they wanted to push, they just wanted to present a culture and a land they love and have a deep connection to and it really shows, in my opinion. The cultural scenes are beautiful, moving and they reminded me of my time up there, meeting and making friends with Aboriginal girls my own age. There was a lot of respect paid to the owners of whatever land they happened to be filming on, and the way they treated the elders and women of the Tiwi Islands was also beautiful and very moving. In fact, I think I enjoyed watching the Behind the Scenes clips just as much as the movie itself.
Filming was also done in a lot of stunning Australian landscapes, including Adelaide, Darwin, Jabiru, Kakadu, Nitmiluk and the Tiwi Islands, and while film can’t do these magnificent places justice, it’s nice to see my country portrayed so beautifully and poetically.