Miranda Tapsell co-writes and stars in director Wayne Blair’s Top End Wedding, a warm-hearted romantic comedy with an entirely original spirit. The offbeat humor and family heart of this story make it a memorable addition to the genre, along with a delightful cast.
Tapsell plays Lauren Ford, an overworked attorney who recently became engaged to her boyfriend Ned (Gwilym Lee, who expertly portrayed Queen guitarist Brian May in Bohemian Rhapsody). They plan to get married in her hometown within the 10-day vacation allotted by her overbearing boss, but when they arrive at her parents’ house, they find her mother Daffy (Ursula Yovich) missing and her father Trevor (Huw Higginson) brokenhearted.
Lauren can’t get married without her mother, so she and Ned embark on a crazy quest across the Northern Territory of Australia, where Daffy was originally from before marrying Trevor. Lauren is perpetually distracted by her depressed father, the ticking clock, the pressure of planning a wedding in a week’s time, and Ned’s revelation that he quit his job.
Despite everything falling apart in her life, Lauren’s journey to find her mother and figure out what happened with her parents is surprisingly joyful. It is undeniably fun to watch what she learns about her mom, her history, her family – and especially herself, all with affable Ned by her side.
It was important to Tapsell that she and co-writer Joshua Tyler show the Northern Territory from the perspective of an outsider. “I didn’t want to write a girl who had grown up in that culture … because that’s for another Tiwi girl to write,” Tapsell told FF2 Media at the Sundance Film Festival premiere of the film last year. “I needed to write something that was a lot more honest from my experience.” It is Lauren’s discovery of – and appreciation for – her mother’s background that makes this film especially unique.
Perfectly aligned with Joshua Tyler and Tapsell’s sweet script, Blair’s feature is beautifully shot, showcasing territory in Australia that’s likely unfamiliar to American audiences. Director of Photography Eric Murray Lui captures the beauty of the country’s Northern Territory as we see it through Lauren and Ned’s eyes. It’s a new experience for them, too, adding an extra layer of meaning to this otherwise funny film.
Lee and Higginson are especially hilarious as they capture the awkward push and pull between a fiance and father-in-law. Lauren’s bridal party and newfound Tiwi family also bring laughs and authenticity to the enjoyable story.
Top End Wedding can fall into some “road trip” movie traps; at times it seems the obstacles keeping Lauren from finding her mom and planning her wedding are overwhelming, and maybe take one too many turns. But it’s ultimately a sweet story about love in all its forms – for marriage, parenthood, heritage, and how far we’re willing to go to discover ourselves.
Read Tapsell’s full interview with FF2 Media about writing to Janet Jackson, constructing her first script and her hopes for her homeland here.
© Georgiana E. Presecky (2/18/20) FF2 Media
Photos Courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films