MOVIE REVIEW: Passion shines in cross-cultural crowd-pleaser
TOP END WEDDING
Director Wayne Blair
Starring: Miranda Tapsell, Kerry Fox, Gwilym Lee
Running time: 102 minutes
Verdict: A cross-cultural crowd-pleaser that lacks some of its predecessor's sparkle
Miranda Tapsell leads the Aussie rom-com into relatively uncharted territory in this big-hearted crowd-pleaser, which reunites the pocket-sized dynamo with The Sapphires' director Wayne Blair.
Top End Wedding takes us on a bumpy journey through the remote and stunning landscape of the Tiwi Islands, Katherine Gorge and Kakadu National Park.
Each stop brings its leading lady a little closer to her long-forgotten roots.
Of course, the stunning locations also provide a plum marketing opportunity for the NT Government, which invested $1.5 million in the film as a venture to boost tourism.
That might well explain the casting of Welsh actor Gwilym Lee, last seen as guitarist Brian May in the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, in the role of Tapsell's fish-out-of-water fiance.
While the passionate side of their relationship is far from convincing, the two actors make affable enough travel buddies.
Co-written by Tapsell and her friend Joshua Tyler, Top End Wedding tells the story of a high-achieving Adelaide lawyer who has just 10 days to organise her wedding in the Northern Territory, where she grew up, to her long-time partner, Ned (Lee).
The punishing schedule is dictated by her tyrannical boss (Kerry Fox), who doesn't want her employee's love life to be a distraction.
But when the happy-ish couple arrive in Darwin, they discover that the bride-to-be's mother (Ursula Yovich) has gone AWOL.
Needless to say, Lauren's wedding can't go ahead without such a key family member.
Leaving her distraught father (Huw Higginson) and childhood besties (The Sapphires' Shari Sebbens, Elaine Crombie and Dalara Williams) in charge of the nuptial arrangements, she and Ned head off in search of the missing matriarch.
As she retraces her mother's footsteps, Lauren begins to understand her own, unexplored ties to the region.
Mother and daughter undertake a parallel journey of self-discovery in which they reconnect - at times painfully - with their country and estranged family members.
Yovich brings an affecting poignancy to the role of Daphne - a Tiwi Island woman seeking to heal old wounds before its too late.
Tapsell's natural buoyancy carries the film, even when it hits some rather large potholes.
The authenticity of Tiwi Island sequence - a part of the country rarely seen on film - also counteracts some of the more forced and formulaic plot points.
Top End Wedding, a tale of cultural identity and healing, was something of a passion for project for Tapsell, and in the end, that genuine fervour shines through.
Top End Wedding opens on Thursday (May 2).