‘Top End Wedding’ Is The Uplifting Rom-Com Australia Needs

I cried in this movie and I cried like a baby, and I am still going to one hundred percent recommend you go see this film in cinemas.

'Top End Wedding' is a hilarious new Australian rom-com

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Among 2019’s bevvy of cinematic gems shines the Australian pearl Top End Wedding.

Written by Miranda Tapsell and Joshua Tyler, and Directed by Wayne Blair, Top End Wedding tells the story of a ten day engagement between high powered lawyer Lauren (played by Tapsell) and freshly unemployed Ned (played by the dynamic Gwilym Lee), who are living and working in Adelaide.

While this film is billed as a romantic comedy I have to say, it is so much more than your average rom-com.

As someone who cherishes a bit of escapism and the immersive nature of sitting in a dark cinema in oversized chairs eating over-priced popcorn, I will admit that if reviewers are warning that audiences need to “bring tissues”, I am likely to avoid that film.

Tissues means big feelings, usually sad ones, and don’t we all have enough of that in real life without paying to experience them in a public place?

But I cried in this movie and I cried like a baby, and I am still going to one hundred percent recommend you go see this film in cinemas.

And I mean, I sobbed, the whole way through. Not because this movie is sad, but because it ISN’T SAD.

It is stunningly beautiful, charming, and well scripted, and this made it so refreshing. Never in my 31 years have I gone to the big screen and seen First Nations culture depicted and presented in a way that isn’t dripping in deficit, focused on acknowledging and sharing the significant trauma we have survived, or simply erased completely.

Top End Wedding is uplifting, and offered me something I had not experienced before as a viewer in a mainstream theatre  — the chance to see First Nations people, relationships, and culture presented from a position of strength and normality.

Tourism Australia Should Take Note

Opening with the sound of Tiwi (the language of the Tiwi people and Islands) being spoken, the introductory scenes quickly set the tone and pace for this film as one which is going to deliver a course of charm, humour, and comfort.

It is upbeat, focused on relatable family dynamics, and layered with magnificent landscapes as you journey along with Lauren, Ned, their families and communities as they traverse city, urban, and outback environments.

Tourism Australia would do well to view this film for ideas on how to market this continent.

The overarching story follows protagonist Lauren, a woman who has been raised by her Indigenous mother, Daffy, and non-indigenous father, Trevor, in the Northern Territory, as she navigates her workplace, family, and extreme time constraints in her attempt to achieve a ten day engagement.

Many of the key plot points centre on Daffy, played by the brilliant Ursula Yovich, and her relationship with her family, culture, and homeland of the Tiwi Islands. We watch on while Lauren, who is living in Adelaide and has become increasingly busy with her work life, repeatedly ignores her Mother’s phone calls.

We come to discover that Lauren has never been to the Tiwi Islands and her new fiancé Ned has never met her family.

Visiting The Top End

As Lauren and Ned journey together to Darwin for the first time so that Ned may meet Lauren’s family and announce their engagement, there is moment which I found deeply moving.

The screen reveals a map of Australia, depicting a plane travelling across the continent, and the continent is marked beautifully with both sovereign and settler land lines and names. These simple elements which acknowledge the history and story of Australia, as well as the two cultures of Ned and Lauren, are beautifully effective.

While viewers may initially anticipate that the great journey of this film will be pulling off an interstate wedding in ten days, by the time Ned and Lauren land in the Top End they find that Daffy has gone, leaving her mobile phone and rather distraught husband behind.

What follows is ten chaotic days of chasing stories, sightings, and family history all while questioning what marriage and family mean.

This Is What An Australian Rom-Com Looks Like

Top End Wedding is an invigorating film which delightfully passes the Bechdel test.

Audiences are spoilt for choice with strong female relationships, including brilliant support performances by Elaine Cromby, Shari Sebbens, and Dalara Williams, and the inclusion of male characters actually capable of expressing emotion.

For those who are looking, there is truth telling subtly placed within this film, offering both substance as well as a tasty feast of comfort food.

With various poignant nods to Australian history and present, the audience is taken on a geographical and emotional journey with Lauren and Ned, as they attempt to bring their families together. And if you’re wondering if it is suitable to take children to, apart from a couple of penis shaped straws and an… umm… excited cake at a Hens Party, the content is mostly family friendly.

Closing in the same way that it began, with the sounds of Tiwi being spoken, this film is an absolute gift to audiences, as well as to tourism Australia, presenting a deeply rich and well woven narrative which breath-takingly crosses decades, families, continent, sea, and cultures.

Amy Thunig is a Gamilaroi woman, Associate Lecturer at Macquarie University, PhD candidate, and writer. She tweets at @AmyThunig