Autodidact: self-taught


Top of the Lake

by V. L. Craven

Top of the Lake

Continuing in the series of reviews of shows about female law enforcement taking no guff (previous posts were The Fall and Happy Valley ) is Top of the Lake.

The previous two were set in Northern Ireland and England, but this outing takes us to New Zealand, where a twelve year old girl tries to drown herself. It’s quickly discovered she’s pregnant and soon after she disappears. Sydney detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss), who is in Laketop to be with her ailing mother, is asked to join the team to find her as well as the person responsible for her pregnancy. The search brings her face-to-face with parts of her past she’d thought she’d left behind.

The missing girl’s father, Matt Mitcham (Peter Mullan), is shady as a bank of willows, volatile and entirely unwilling to assist the police, feeling he and his similarly shady associates will be able to find her on their own.

He’s also not above illegally interfering with the real estate concern of an area called Paradise, which has just been bought by a spiritual guru named GJ (Holly Hunter) to be used as a commune for women to heal their psychic wounds.

Robin finds herself once again entangled with Mitcham’s son, Johnno (Thomas M. Wright), rekindling a relationship from their teenage years. This displeases both their parents, but not for the reasons they originally think.

As time passes, it begins to seem that everyone in Laketop is hiding something. And they still have to find a little girl who only has a few weeks before she’s going to give birth.

And the opening is iconic. Simple but haunting.

Written by Jane Campion (The Piano) and Gerard Lee and directed by Jane Campion and Garth Davis, this six or seven episode series (it depends where you see it) is dark but beautiful. New Zealand itself is practically a character the nature shots are so gorgeous. The cast is expansive but well used and GJ’s all-female commune is so painfully accurate words fail me.

There are plot twists aplenty, as well as brutality. Trigger warning for a rape scene in the fifth episode of the 45 minute shows. I don’t know when it happens in the 60 minute show–probably the fourth episode. If you know, please leave a comment.

Gripping, it’s the sort of television where you don’t want to stop after one episode. Luckily, the entire series can be viewed in one day like they did at the Sundance Festival. Definitely a 5/5.

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