This week, I’ve been re-watching one of my favorite TV series. “Top of the Lake,” by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee. On the surface, it’s a police procedural centred around detective Robin Griffin (Elizabeth Moss) who is trying to unravel the mystery surrounding 12 year old Tui Mitcham, who is pregnant and gone missing.
To me, what the story does so well is seamlessly weave complex and complicated cultural story-lines regarding sexism and rape (amongst other issues) into its characters lives. These are heavy subjects and politically charged ones at that, and yet the series handles it with such integrity and authenticity, you are hardly aware it is challenging cultural norms at all. It does so, by introducing us to characters that are not easy to like, but ones that are undeniably compelling, as they bare their flaws and imperfections to one another and the audience. These are bold characters — relatable and irritating, compassionate and frustrating (even 12 year old Tui is irascible at times). In essence, the roles are written and acted with such grace that the characters hardly seem like characters at all.
I admire the way Campion and Lee have created Robin, Matt, Tui, Johnno and their brethren. They are drawn with a subtle, yet deft, hand that I aspire to within my own writing.
The pacing is hypnotic, the filming stunning, and the scenery of New Zealand which was so epic in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is now, at times, downright eerie and inhospitable.
This is story-telling done extremely well.
For mature audiences.