Created and Written by Jane Campion, Gerard Lee
Directed by Jane Campion, Garth Davis
Starring Elisabeth Moss, David Wenham, Peter Mullan, Jacqueline Joe, Tom Wright, Holly Hunter.
Jane Campion came to notice with her direction of The Piano, a dark drama of forbidden love that won Oscars for herself, Holly Hunter, and Anna Paquin. In 2013, she turned to TV with the intense drama Top of the Lake.
Tui Mitchum (Jacqueline Joe), a 12-year old girl, is found standing in an icy lake. When she is rescued, they discover that she is pregnant. Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss), a detective who specializes in cases involving children, and who grew up in the area, joins to solve the case. Tui won’t name the father, but does put the words “No one” on the wall when asked to identify him. Then she disappears.
Robin goes to track down the girl, along with Al Parker (David Wenham), a local detective known for his work with young offenders. Tui’s father Matt (Peter Mullan) seems a very likely suspect, but Matt is extremely recalcitrant, making him look even more suspicious. Meanwhile, she finds Johnno Mitchum (Tom Wright), her sweetheart in her teens, and a bad boy who is still attractive. There is also a commune of women camped out at the lake, led by the spiritual leader GJ (Holly Hunter).
The show is more about Robin dealing with her past and her demons than a simple police procedural. All the characters have secrets, and the final revelation about Tui is horrifying. She ended up winning a Golden Globe for the part.
Moss is terrific in the role of a woman trying to get to the bottom of a horrific situation while dealing with her own problems. The rest of the cast is strong an understated.
Holly Hunter does a good turn as a character that really doesn’t have much to do with the story. I suspect she did it as a favor to Campion.*
The series was successful enough to earn Moss her first Golden Globe Award. Not for the fainthearted, but it is a first-class bit of drama.
*Anna Paquin was planning to play Robin, but her pregnancy forced her to withdraw.