Top of the Lake: China GirlCannes Film Festival 2017
Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake is back, a powerfully feminist murder mystery that’s as strange as it is satisfying. The second series has earned the subtitle China Girl, which the opening sequence immediately suggests as ironic: it follows the owners of a brothel in Sydney that houses Thai and Korean sex workers, as they take a blue suitcase to the edge of a cliff and push it off. As it sinks to the bottom of the ocean floor, bubbles give way to a mess of human hair. Another mystery begins.
Haunted by the events of last series, Elisabeth Moss returns as Robin, the obsessive detective whose unmitigated independence perturbs her male colleagues. She’s escaped shooting her superior and getting married to a louse (the opening sequence of Episode Two depicts her disastrous wedding). But without a case to tackle, she’s lost.
Elsewhere, 17-year-old Mary (Alice Englert) has taken up with a 43-year-old brothel owner (David Dencik), and it’s a relationship her parents (Ewen Leslie and Nicole Kidman, with an unforgettable grey “do”) are none too happy about. And these storylines soon intertwine, as their daughter is revealed to be Robin’s, whom she gave up at 16.
Campion’s world first earned comparisons to Twin Peaks when it debuted, which still seems fair: the dialogue, in particular, keeps up an entertaining balance between grim sincerity and goofball humour. The ripest comic addition to the cast is Gwendoline Christie, an awkward new police offer whose enormous height adds humour to the moment, say, when she lunges at a dog and starts cuddling it. Moss is reliably brittle and sympathetic as the lead, but – as is so often the case – it’s the Nicole Kidman show. Campion knows the actress well, so brings out the perfect amount of anger, wit, and pathos in her maternal figure, whose proud lesbian and feminist credentials can’t bring her any closer to her surrogate daughter.
It’s a distinctive show that, even only from its first two episodes, looks to be more atmospheric and gripping than ever.
Top of the Lake: China Girl does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Top of the Lake: China Girl here: