A feel-good film from beginning to end, Top End Wedding was a crowd-pleaser in 2019, Australia’s highest grossing film. A romantic comedy with a happy ending (spoiler alert), one thinks of Four Weddings and a Funeral because of the ups and downs of more than one romantic relationship and the unexpected path to that happy ending.
Director Wayne Blair has given us so much more than a standard rom-com. Here we see two up and coming attorneys in Adelaide dealing with different stress points in their careers, who then decide to marry. Gwilym Lee is perfect as Ned Pelton, an attorney too sensitive for his job as a prosecutor. Miranda Tapsell is captivating as Lauren Ford, an ambitious corporate attorney determined to succeed under the eagle eye of a supervisor who at first seems to resemble the Cruella DeVil character in 101 Dalmations.
The happy bride-to-be wants to be married where she grew up and wants her parents in attendance, a perfectly reasonable desire. Flying from Adelaide to Darwin, the couple encounter an unexpected situation – her mother has run away from home, leaving her father Trevor (Huw Higginson) devastated. So the first order of business is to find Lauren’s mother.
A hard-target search across Australia ensues after Lauren and Ned hire a four-wheel drive vehicle and buy camping equipment, following each clue, hoping to find her mother in the ten days Lauren has off before she must return to the office in Adelaide. The hilarious characters they encounter, as they journey against time, test their patience and their relationship with each other.
Wonderfully filmed individual scenes include Ned’s proposal to Lauren in their apartment; her father’s reaction every time he thinks of his absent wife; the impromptu brunch Ned arranges for his beloved to break the tedium of their travel; the glorious Nature scenes as they drive across the continent of Australia; and that moment in the airport when all seems lost for the couple. The moment is reminiscent of Ellen Burstyn and Kris Kristofferson in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, or Susan Sarandon and James Spader in White Palace. And there is her mother’s unique story, causing one to recall the Julia Roberts character in Runaway Bride.
Complete with Lauren’s best friends forever, played by Tessa Rose and Kerry Fox, celebrating her upcoming marriage with “girls night out” in Darwin, this film is a keeper. Add in the fact that the bride and her mother and the film director give the audience an uplifting look into Aboriginal life in Australia, if you still need convincing.