Top of the Lake

A detective investigates the disappearance of a 12-year-old pregnant daughter of a local drug lord.


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  • ★★★★ review by willa on Letterboxd

    in this house we hate men

  • ★★★★½ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd

    "die to yourself."

    full review coming at some point, but beyond the obvious (gender dynamics, female agency, haunted places, etc...) this was an obscenely brilliant study of resolution... how it's manifested, applied, and perverted.

    and holy shit, peter mullan. an all-time performance, and a voice i'll never forget.

  • ★★★½ review by Adam Cook on Letterboxd

    Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake is a haunting six-part crime thriller set in the beautiful yet dangerous town of Paradise, a fictional idyll full of dark secrets in a remote part of New Zealand. People have been quick to compare it to the seminal Twin Peaks with its eccentric cast of characters, buried secrets and off-kilter tone but it never once feels derivative or beholden to Lynch’s classic series - It might share a similar atmosphere but it is its own unique beast.

    The six-part novel (as Campion describes it) is centred on Detective Robin Griffin, a young officer returning to Paradise after her mother falls ill with cancer, and her quest to find Tui, a 12-year old girl who has disappeared after becoming pregnant. Whilst the investigation drives the story forward it would be wrong to class Top of the Lake as a pure detective thriller. It is as much a character study of Robin and the menagerie of misfits she comes into contact with as it is about finding Tui and revealing the heinous secrets of the sleepy and insular town.

    Robin is both an outsider and intrinsically linked to Paradise. Having left for Sydney she is no longer a part of her hometown community yet her traumatic past has shaped the person she has become and her return awakens these terrible memories and emotions. Elisabeth Moss, so brilliant in Mad Men, once again excels here managing to deliver a strong yet vulnerable performance as she is tested to her limits. Campion is not afraid to push the character to breaking point as Robin has to deal with bereavement, her difficult past and an uncertain future. She is a very different detective from the ones you normally see in television dramas and proves to be a compelling focal point for this enigmatic mini-series.

    Moss is supported by an excellent and eclectic cast of actors from Holly Hunter’s no-nonsense guru who runs a haven for ‘invisible women’ to the terrifying Peter Mullan as Matt, a ruthless yet contradictory force of nature who appears to have fathered half the town’s population and runs all of its illegal operations. These characters, along with many others, weave their way in and out of the story as the investigation slowly comes into sharp and shocking focus.

    The entire series is beautifully shot as it evocatively captures the savage yet stunning landscape. It is a place that feels as if it is both out of time and steeped in secrets, the perfect location for such a rich story. The series’ deliberate pacing matches the rhythm of the town and the people that call it home whilst also slowly pulling the audience into the murky underbelly of such a seemingly idyllic spot.

    It is just a shame then that the final episode is somewhat of a disappointment. Not because it is anti-climactic but because it is the exact opposite. In attempting to deliver a finale worthy of the intriguing and enthralling hours that preceded it Campion and co-writer, Gerard Lee, pile on the revelations weighing the conclusion down in a series of plot developments that never have the time to breathe. It is still a thrilling finish as secrets are revealed but many are simply brushed over in order to answer the next mystery that has been left hanging throughout the series. It seems harsh to criticise a show for delivering a tense and exciting finale but for me the climax undermined the mystery and tantalising ambiguity of the rest of the series.

    Irrespective of my issues with the final hour, Top of the Lake is still a beautifully shot, acted and constructed drama that demands your attention.

  • ★★★★ review by I.V. on Letterboxd

    A creation myth in the shape of a small town whodunit.

  • ★★★★ review by josh lewis on Letterboxd

    "there is no match for the tremendous intelligence of the body."

    patriarchal violence as creation myth. the body knows what it has to do to survive, but that blood isn't coming out anytime soon.

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