Top of the Lake
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Top of the Lake centers on the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl who was the victim of statutory rape (an act that's discussed but not shown onscreen). Simulated adult sex acts include intercourse and oral sex, and bare buttocks are visible but no other sensitive parts are shown. Sudden moments of violence are rare, although death and murder are prominent themes, and some characters use weapons but with minimal bloodletting. Characters also use coarse language, along with alcohol and illegal drugs like marijuana and mephedrone.
Beautiful scenery in contrast to terrible secrets
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Inaccurate sexual content review by website
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What's the Story?
When the pregnant, 12-year-old daughter (Jacqueline Joe) of a local drug lord (Peter Mullan) disappears under mysterious circumstances in the picturesque wilds of Laketop, New Zealand, Sydney-based detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss), who's returned home to help care for her ailing mother, takes the lead in solving the case. But the deeper she delves into the crime at the TOP OF THE LAKE, the more memories she unearths of her own troubled past.
Is It Any Good?
Written and directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jane Campion (The Piano) -- who's also the first-ever woman to receive the Palme d'Or at Cannes -- Top of the Lake is an uncommonly compelling crime drama with near-cinematic sensibilities. So much so, in fact, that you often forget you're watching a television show. There's artful stillness and palpable sadness is almost every frame, and the collective performances of Moss, Mullan, and newcomer Joe push it firmly into must-see territory.
The languid pacing might not be for everyone, but if you watch, you'll find a deft exploration, not just of a crime, but of a small-town community that's a magnet for broken souls -- from the assorted women who've gathered in a place called Paradise to gain wisdom from the enigmatically "enlightened" GJ (Holly Hunter) to the young victim whose metaphorical fate hangs over them all.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about statutory rape and its emotional and physical repercussions. What are the tragic realities of becoming pregnant at such a young age under such circumstances? How well does Top of the Lake portray the seriousness of the situation?
How big of a role does sexism play in the innerworkings of the Laketop community, particularly among those in positions of power? How prominently do female characters figure into the plot, and how do they measure up as role models?
How does Top of the Lake compare to other mystery series on television? In what ways did the writer-director's film background influence the end result?
- Premiere date: March 18, 2013
- Cast: David Wenham, Elisabeth Moss, Holly Hunter
- Network: Sundance Channel
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: February 10, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Gripping crime drama takes place in grimly realistic world.
Violent crime drama has grit -- and a strong female lead.
Implausible, mature thriller about a sex club.
For kids who love mystery and thrills
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate