Top End Wedding (2019)

Companion as Place

Why does this earn a special space in my heart? It is a romantic comedy after all, deliberately designed to be discarded. The genre is defined by the attractiveness of a superficial love; the easy way problems are resolved and the balance of designed soulmates restored.

This film follows the mandated pattern: love, some misunderstanding of clumsiness that separates the lovers, a public pronouncement of love with cheering bystanders, happy ending — often a wedding and dancing. You have to have some strong comedic, but identifiably human characters. This serves that pattern well.

But it also has a few important differences. The first is the in your face charm of the land. I am immigrating to Australia so this grabs me deeper than it will you, dear reader. But it will likely grab you too, because the rom-com device here is place as heart. That is usually impossible to convey: vistas are containers, situations within which you place the characters and their emotions. Even Takashi Miike (The Bird People in China) or the obverse film, Zhang Yimou (Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles) can only use place as space, and then only to annotate, even when they use the mystery of place and people.

Here you have a device no other place has: the people and the place share an identity. I don’t know how well this would be conveyed to someone who knows nothing of the Aborigines, but it completely captured the notion by bringing souls to place in the context of life commitment. The driver of place is largely implied, making it so much stronger.

But there’s also a more intriguing notion of love. As with the rom-com model it is the man that is the lead and the woman that acquiesces or not. But here the guy has some novel metaphors. Here he is already committed beyond the happy closeness of an early relationship and he explains why: his life is a room half filled with boxes that mean (‘contain’) little and he wants the rest to be full of flowers and jewels. This is after the metaphor is set up by someone in the parallel romance. And it becomes a complaint in the big breakup scene.

But the metaphor is strange enough that it steps out of the rom-com genre far enough to register as human; love for someone coming as much from the pull of attraction (and this woman is attractive) as from the innate need for companionship.

Posted in 2019

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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