From acclaimed director Jane Campion (The Piano, Portrait of a Lady), we’re given the enticing yet haunting miniseries Top of the Lake. Set in a small, rural town in New Zealand, young Tui Mitcham has been impregnated at the age of twelve. Detective Robin Griffin happens to be in the area visiting her mother, who is currently losing a battle with cancer. No-nonsense Griffin, played by Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men, On the Road, Get Him to the Greek), grows completely obsessed with solving the terrible crime. Peter Mullan acts as disgusting, sexist alpha male, Matt Mitcham, AKA Tui’s father. It’s hard not to point the finger at Mitcham, a man with no qualms about murdering a realtor who sold his land to a small community of women in recovery.
However, there are plenty of suspects, from the convicted pedophile, the boy texting Tui on the school bus, to the many grimy-looking men who fill the bars in Tui’s hometown. The day after Tui runs away to the all-female outdoor campsite led by wise GJ (Holly Hunter) on her father’s old property, “Paradise,” she goes missing. Robin seems to be the only one concerned with Tui’s disappearance, organizing a stressfully forced search party with the local police. At the end of the second episode, GJ prophesies the ominous consequences of Robin’s involvement in the investigation, leaving the viewer anxiously awaiting the next installment. (Did I mention there’s a legend about the lake involving a demon? Just add that to the pile of unbearable anticipation.)
Co-writers Jane Campion and Gerard Lee paint a stark, gorgeous portrait of the New Zealand village, drawing us in with its convincingly messed up residents. Moss does a great job as the too-serious workaholic running away from her long list of problems (deceased father lost to the depths of the lake, cancer victim mother with new boyfriend, fiancée she doesn’t love, etc). It’s clear that Griffin won’t be all work and no play for long, as a romantic entanglement starts brewing with Tui’s older brother. Holly Hunter’s blunt dialogue flows naturally and brings an essential, foreboding element to the show. GJ’s following of women promise to play their own complicated part in the story as well. Some have been abused, some are sex addicts, and some just seem a bit...off. Beautifully shot and produced, the spectacular cast and intricate plot make for one intense ride. Top of the Lake will leave you on the edge of your seat, begging to learn more about the strange characters, Tui’s secrets, and Robin’s mysterious past.
Watch the trailer for Top of the Lake below and catch the two-hour premiere on March 18th at 9pm on the Sundance Channel!
Photos via Berlinale.de, TBIVision, and the Sundance Channel.