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Byron Shire
March 8, 2021

Cinema Review: Top End Wedding

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It’s sometimes too easy to attend the cinema with not overly high expectations. The trailers for this were hokey and Screen Australia’s keenness to award grants to Indigenous projects can get a bit ho-hum. And in the end there are no surprises in Wayne Blair’s sweet rom-com, but I’ll be damned if a man didn’t have a tear in his eye when it was done and dusted. Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) has agreed to marry her white boyfriend, Ned (Gwyllim Lee). They travel to Darwin to bring the good news to her parents, but upon arrival Lauren discovers that her mother has left her (also white) father, Trevor (Huw Higginson). Trevor is a pathetic character who locks himself in the cupboard to play Chicago’s If you leave me now every time his wife comes to mind – I would not have cared if he never came out. Lauren and Ned embark on a road trip to find the missing mum, so if you like the Top End scenery you’ll love the visuals. But there is a moment when, just as things are turning predictable to the point of dreariness, the voices of a female choir singing an ancient song in their native language is heard as the camera pans across the horizon. It’s incredibly moving and it underscores the theme of re-connection with Land that Lauren will undergo. Eventually, she learns that her mother has returned to the Tiwi Islands, a god-forsaken place where there are a lot of people hanging around on littered streets with nothing to do – as a tourist promo it doesn’t exactly shout ‘come visit!’ Lauren’s reunion with her mother and introduction to her grandparents is genuinely moving and the feelgood wedding is highlighted, again, by the singing of the face-painted old women of her mob. The air of authenticity is palpable and it more than makes up for the writing by numbers that preceded it. Tapsell grates a bit, but Ursula Yovich is terrific as the mother and Lee likeable as the groom.

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