A teenage Maori girl rides her bicycle through the snowy landscape of a countryside
and then she just leaves the bike and walks into the icy lake, with all her clothes on. The headmistress on the schoolbus sees her standing still in the water, staring straight ahead like petrified, and rescues her. The girl remains silent.
The girl, Tui, is examined by a nurse at her school and is found to be pregnant.
The film moves to a house where two
tattooed young men, Mark and Luke, notice a convoy of trucks carrying large containers and alert their father, Matt.
They mention that the trucks are heading towards "Paradise".
Meanwhile, two women, Bunny and Anita, one with a camera and one with a microphone, interview the older G.J. about why she chose that location, Paradise.
G.J. mentions that it was meant to be only for two of them but now that are
six more women, each living in a container.
Matt, Mark and Luke drive to Paradise to find out what is going on.
They meet Bunny, who says that she bought the place and that the older
G.J. is in charge. They tell Matt that
G.J. is in "a different mental state", enlightened, and the other women are
there to recover from psychological traumas.
Matt gets quickly annoyed by their stories and rudely tells them that
they are illegal on that property.
Meanwhile, a young woman,
Robin, is pondering her situation: she just moved back from Australia to her small New Zealand hometown because her mother Jude is sick. Robin is staying with her mother.
The police call and we learn that Robin is a detective.
Her mother Jude is upset that Robin has to leave immediately for a new investigation.
We also learn that Tui is twelve years old.
At the police station she demands to be left alone with Tui, who has been refusing to speak.
Tui still refuses to tell Robin who got her pregnant, and only writes "noone" on a piece of paper.
Robin takes Tui to ultrasound tests and lets Tui see the pulsing foetus.
Mark and Luke go visit the realtor, Bob, who sold the place despite an agreement he had with their father Matt. They take him on their boat under the pretense of going fishing but then hook up with Matt, who, furious, threatens to kill Bob.
Bob begs in vain. Matt throws him off board in the icy water where Bob dies.
Back to the police station, Tui asks to return home to her dad, and we learn that her dad is Matt, and her brothers Mark and Luke.
Robin doesn't think it's wise because they have a bad reputation but
sergeant Al drives Tui home anyway. Robin reminds Al that it's
statutory rape and it is their duty to find who did it, e.g. via
DNA testing. Al doesn't seem in a hurry to, and instead insinuates that
Robin's mother was involved in a violent altercation with a man called
We learn that Robin's mother, Jude, has cancer, and that Robin
is visiting for "two or three weeks".
Al allows Robin to keep visiting Tui and asks Robin to deliver the news of the pregnancy to the estranged mother.
We hear that the police station has just heard of a man falling overboard in the lake and is preparing the search mission, and we guess it's about Bob, whose death is being disguised as an accident by the killers.
Al drives Tui to Matt's place and informs Matt of what has happened: Tui was found in the lake up to her chest and she is five-month pregnant, and a
female detective is investigating.
Matt reacts by calling Tui a slut and immediately calls for an abortion.
Matt asks Al to close the case using his "imagination".
On the way back Al sees a young woman with a baby and asks whether the father is
Mark. The woman answers "no". He asks whether it's
Luke's: still "no". Al walks away.
Matt looks for Tui. Tui hides and grabs a gun.
She points it at Matt. Matt laughs and only praises her for not telling the truth to the police. We guess that he's the one who got her pregnant.
Then we hear Matt on the phone discuss Bob's drowning and remarking that Bob had been drinking.
Meanwhile, Robin visits Tui's Maori mother Kimmie, who had Tui from Matt. She lives with Tui's half-brother Johnno. Kimmie is devastated by the news of Tui's pregnancy.
Back home, Robin tells her mom Jude that she is going to interview Tui at Matt's place and her mom warns her that it is not safe.
Her mom brings up the topic of Turangi. We learn that he's been assisting Jude despite the fact that he is a violent man.
Tui rides her horse to Paradise. She has her gun and a ferocious little dog.
The women of Paradise are exchanging storis of their tragedies when they notice her. They bring her in and introduce her to G.J.
Tui tells them that her dad owns the land, but they ignore it.
G.J. tells Tui that she's dying of cancer, in fact she thinks she's already dead, a zombie.
They give Tui food and Tui
shows them the ultrasound picture of her foetus.
Tui also says that she cannot handle her dad...
Robin moves to what used to be her father's cabin by the lake.
She receives a text from someone named Steve who wants her back.
Johnno shows up. He notices that she wears an engagement ring.
Johnno says that he was imprisoned for eight years for possession of drugs,
but he is now a changed man.
Johnno wants Robin to know that he had no part in something that happened
in the past and that Robin doesn't want to talk about.
He tells her that someone named Morto died in a car accident and someone named
Sarge has come back and works at the pub, but she doesn't want to hear.
Just then Robin notices a corpse floating in the lake: Bob's body.
Robin drives to Matt's place to check on Tui but Matt tells her that Tui has
disappeared. Matt recognizes Robin as "Jude and Ivan's daughter".
Matt is rude and hostile, but tells Robin that noone loves Tui more than him.
As a warning to her, Matt kills Bob's dog in front of her.
On the way out Robin sees Tui's horse, which is wandering alone.
All the women of Paradise are looking for Tui: she stayed with them, then
left in the morning to go back home but instead the horse came back alone.
Bunny walks into the town's pub and offers money to anyone who will have sex with her for a maximum of seven minutes. One man accepts: Sarge. Bunny explains that she has these sexual compulsions, but her therapist has told her to limit them to a minimum of seven minutes.
Robin is searching for Tui in the countryside.
She reaches the lake and, imitating a scene she has not seen, walks into the lake.
Back to the police station, she talks to the town's cops. She reminds them that
the girl could have been kidnapped by the rapist in order to avoid
a DNA match. Asked who are the suspects, the mentions only the family members:
her father Matt and his sons Mark, Luke and Johnno.
There's also a Wolfgang who is a registered paedophile. But it is obvious that
the cops are not interested in Tui.
Robin hangs out with Al who warms up to her. Robin finds out that
Tui was once arrested for shoplifting.
Robin tells Al that her fiance' Steve is a cop.
Robin asks Al for two helicopters to search the wilderness.
Meanwhile a helicopter lands at Paradise. The owner, Jock, is taking his
daughter Melissa to Bunny, who abandoned her in a hospital. Jock is shocked
could leave the girl on her own
knowing that she was sick. He had to fly back from Beijing to rescue Melissa
from the hospital. He takes the opportunity to announce that he's remarrying
a much younger woman who is pregnant of his child.
Jock tells G.J. that he's leaving Melissa in Paradise.
Melissa is shown strumming aimlessly the guitar like an old-time hippy.
Matt walks into the pub while Robin and Al are there drinking with the men who participated in the search. Matt is confident that Tui has the skills to survive in the wilderness. He threatens to kill anyone who harms her.
Robin and Al remain at the pub and play darts. The men around them make bad misogynistic jokes
about Robin and then call Tui a slut.
Robin later follows Wolfgang to his house and interrogates him.
He has pictures of Tui. He teaches
kids like Tui folk dancing. As a registered sex offender, he's
not supposed to be around children. He confesses to Robin that he truly loved
the boy for whom he went to jail.
When she asks to inspect the basement, Wolfgang snaps, grabs a gun and runs out.
Robin hides and hears gunshots. She pulls out her mobile phone and calls Johnno.
Johnno comes in the middle of night and disarms Wolfgang, who cries and swears
that he didn't hurt Tui. Johnno seems to believe him and simply drives Robin away.
Matt and Al meet on a boat in the middle of the lake. Al suspects that Matt had something to do with Bob's death.
Robin inspects the containers at Paradise and we learn that
G.J. is a Swiss national.
Steve calls Robin, distressed that she's not returning home.
Robin also forgets her
mother's doctor's appointment. The doctor found more cancer in her mother's body
and Robin feels guilty that she was not there.
Later she sees Johnno at the pub with another girl and fantasizes that
Johnno grabs her (Robin) in the restrooms of the pub and performs oral sex on her (Robin).
The following morning Robin and Al inspect Matt's property.
She collects Tui's diary.
She notices two women in the house and Matt claims they are cleaners.
Wolfgang hangs himself. The body is found by Sarge.
Robin and Al find a grave nearby but inside there's a dog, not a child.
Matt visits Paradise bringing a bunch of flowers. Bunny is hostile, but another woman invites him to attend their meeting during which they meditate and heal each other. Matt asks G.J. philosophical questions to which she answers hermetically about a lost little girl.
Robin is moved by a video of Tui found in Wolfgang's house and keeps watching it at home.
Johnno takes Robin boating. We learn that Robin was his first girlfriend.
They kiss romantically and have sex.
We see that Mark and Luke are involved in a drug operation. Someone provides
mephedrone and a lab turns it into pills of ecstasy. They get high.
Meanwhile, Matt has tried in vain to get a date with Bunny and resigned
himself to a date with Anita. She tells him how
Bunny and GJ met and GJ convinced Bunny to buy Paradise.
Matt tells Anita that the house is sort of a haunted house:
the first man who lived there killed his wife and children and
burned down the house, and the
next family fled terrified by their ghosts.
Matt takes Anita home, where they see Luke high. Matt tells Anita that he
can't have an erection and so they just cuddle and chat in bed.
Matt tells Anita of his last wife, a Thai woman who didn't love him.
The following day Matt takes Anita on a hike. They
strip naked in the middle of nowhere and take Luke's pills of ecstasy.
They reach a
graveyard where he shows Anita his mother's tomb and then proceeds to flagellate himself in front of the grave while promising her a place in Paradise.
Robin is obsessed with Tui and spends all the time studying her phone and staring at her pictures.
She visits Al at his house and tells Al that "noone" (which Tui wrote on a piece of paper) meant "not only one" but three or four: she was raped by multiple men.
Al serves her wine and
listens patiently to her theory but then tells her that she is
translating Tui's case into her own case: she was gang-raped when she was 15
and even had a baby. Al must now admit that everybody in town knows that was raped.
The four guys who did it were later beated up by Al and other men of the town,
but they were free. Most of them have moved away. Sarge, however, was one of them and he's still in town.
Robin in tears tells how she has been hiding this truth from her daughter.
She fear that her daughter would kill herself if she knew that her father
is a rapist.
She also tells Al that Johnno was her date that night. That's why Johnno feels guilty: he couldn't help her.
She is now drunk of all the wine and can't drive home.
The following morning she wakes up in his bed wearing his shirt.
He was a gentleman and slept on the couch.
Robin finds out that Wolfgang was out of town when Tui got pregnant.
She now looks for Tui's friend Jamie, a man who frequently contacted her by text messaging. She learns that Jamie works for Matt.
Matt is woken up by the sobs of what sounds like a girl and thinks it's Tui
(which could mean that he has nothing to do with her disappearance).
Instead it's Anita, sobbing in Tui's room. Matt gets furious with her that
she used Tui's room and tells her to pack her things. Then he drives her
to Paradise and he's so angry that he drives into the gate while Anita is struggling to open it, thereby sending Anita flying in the air.
He insults all the women who come out terrified and they insult him back.
He comes close to using violence, then leaves.
One day Jude upsets Robin asking to meet her granddaughter. Robin only replies
that the girl now has a family and runs out. While she's jogging around town,
Robin recognizes Tui and runs after her but can't catch up.
Robin returns home after a few hours. Her mother, worried about her disappearance, was about to call the police.
At the pub Robin is approached by Sarge, the very man who raped her 15 years
earlier. He doesn't recognize her and so he hits on her.
She smashes a glass bottle and punches him in the stomach with it.
Johnno has just walked in and drags her away.
The following morning Al finds Robin and Johnno making love in a tent outside her mom's home.
Al, having heard of her scuffle with Sarge, tells Robin that she has to terminate her investigation: Tui will be declared death because it's impossible to survive so long in that freezing weather.
Back home Robin tells Johnno that she is now neither a detective nor a fianche'.
Johnno sees a boy in a hoodie furtively manouvre a canoe.
Jamie's mother Simone comes to ask Robin to talk to her son Jamie,
the one who was frequently texting Tui.
Jamie is a weird kid, who doesn't speak to anybody and collects bones.
Robin visits him in his room full of bones and realizes that he is the kid with the hoodie. He refuses to speak to her.
Back with Johnno, she and him reminisce about their romantic date and fateful night. Her mother was scared when she realized that Robin's date was
Johnno, fearing that he was as evil as his father Matt. After dancing and
kissing, Johnno left Robin to smoke marijuana. Robin, upset, walked back home alone and was attacked by a drunk Sarge and his drunk friends.
Johnno has something to confess about that night but Robin doesn't want to hear it.
Robin learns that a man has been looking for her.
It's Ian, a pathologist who thinks that Al and his police squad are idiots.
Ian doesn't believe that
Bob Platt's death was an accident, doesn't believe that
Wolfgang killed himself, and is puzzled by a third death, that happened earlier:
a 13-year-old girl, April, was run over by a car and cocaine was found in her
vagina. Cocaine is an expensive drug that kids normally can't afford.
The official version is that she simply walked towards the car, as if she
wanted to be killed.
Ian's daughter was killed by an overdose, so for him the case is personal.
Back with Johnno, he finally tells her his secret: he was hiding in Sarge's truck when the four men were raping her but didn't do anything to save her.
Robin forgives him.
Johnno walks to Sarge's trailer, throws him out and tells him to leave town forever.
Al asks Robin to talk to a reporter who is writing an article about Tui's case.
Robin asks Al about April and Al replies that it was suicide.
And then Al, out of the blue, proposes to Robin.
Robin's mother Jude and her boyfriend Turangi visit Paradise.
They arrive when the women are bathing naked and Jude joins them.
Then the women gather around G.J. She brutally talks about Jude's terminal
cancer and tells her that death is natural, in a casual tone.
Robin's mother made friend with Bob's widow Caroline (Matt previously told Robin that Bob was not married).
Caroline tells Robin that Bob was terrified by something and sold Paradise in a hurry to Bunny because his commission was enough money to leave town forever.
Caroline lets Robin check Bob's computer.
Robin's mother, sensing that Robin is seeing Johnno again, begs Robin to break up with him, although she doesn't explain why.
This instills doubts in Robin's mind about Johnno's role in her rape.
When Robin sees Johnno next, she asks him if he helped Sarge find her the night of the rape.
Johnno, offended, storms out of her house and of her life.
Matt wakes up at night hearing the dogs bark and walks into Tui's room hoping that she's back. Again, it doesn't look like he killed her.
The following morning he announces to
Luke and Mark that he is going to hire professionals to search for Tui.
Luke and Mark are puzzled and eventually say that they saw him (Matt) in bed with Tui. Matt loses his temper and attacks one of them shouting that he loves Tui.
Johnno spots a kid in a hoodie, presumably Jamie, paddling in a canoe and rushes to tell Robin.
They try to catch up with the kid but fail. They strip naked and make love in the woods. Two men approach silently and one start taking pictures of them.
Robin sees him and Johnno runs after him grabbing his phone. The man fights
back with a knife wounding Johnno and Robin has to shoot in the air to scare
the men away.
Robin and a limping Johnno slowly walk to Paradise, where the women are happy
to bandage Johnno's wound.
Johnno checks the videos on the phone that he seized and finds a video in which
Tui is seen wandering in the same woods. The women are excited that this shows Tui is still alive.
When Robin returns home, Jude's boyfriend Turangi informs her that Jude just died.
We see Matt again at his mother's tomb, removing his shirt, promising to find "her" (presumably Tui) and flagellating himself.
After her mother's funeral, Robin is informed by the police that Jamie has been arrested for shoplifting. Robin interrogates him, suspecting that he is stealing food not for himself (his mother gives him plenty) but for someone else, which would also explain the secret paddling across the lake.
He also shoplifted
"roofies" which are used as a date-rape drug, which increases Robin's suspicions.
Jamie starts slapping himself like a madman.
Al loses his patience and roughs him up until Jamie stops him.
Robin drives Jamie home. He still doesn't speak to her. At home Jamie starts
banging his head against the walls and his mother Simone begs him to stop.
The next morning Jamie disappears with all the food that Simone has in the fridge.
We see him paddling across the lake, stopping in the woods and making a sound.
Tui appears, very alive and hungry, and starts eating the food.
We now know for sure that Tui is still alive and just hiding.
Turangi finds out that Jude didn't own "her" house: that house is owned by Matt.
Robin tells Johnno that Jamie probably knows where Tui is.
Johnno speculates that Tui could be pregnant of Jamie's baby.
Robin now wants to dismantle Matt's illegal drug operation and send Matt to jail because she is convinced that Tui would come out if Matt were gone.
Robin has figured out that Matt runs a clandestine lab
for making ecstasy and amphetamines.
Johnno warns her that the town's economy depends on that trade and nobody will want her around if she goes after it.
Robin takes Bob's computer to two specialists, who analyze it and discover
several hidden files. Most of them are indeed embarrassing but one only
shows Bob staring at someone having sex and some other men in the room.
Robin calls Al and tries to identify the building, given that the room is
painted brown and has a deer head.
Robin then stops Simone and other women who work as "cleaners" for Matt.
Robin tells them that he wants to prosecute Matt for the illicit drugs but
they refuse to cooperate telling her bluntly that he pays for
their medical bills.
Robin learns from Simone that Jamie has disappeared.
At night someone shots in front of her cabin.
She tells Johnno who tells her that it's a clear warning.
Matt decides to organize a posse to search for Tui in the woods.
(He orders Luke to round up friends while Luke is having sex with someone).
Al and Robin set up a police checkpoint on the road and see strangers on
motorcycle riding by. When Matt's car shows up, Robin stops him and tells
him that everybody is required to take a DNA test. Matt refuses.
Jamie and Tui show up at Paradise. Tui wants to ask G.J. about giving birth.
All the women assemble around them. Some advise Tui to go to a hospital.
G.J. tells her that the body is intelligent and will know what to do.
Robin informs Al that she wants to
raid Matt's house because she's sure there's a drug lab inside.
It's Tui's birthday.
A group of friends including some of the women paddle to Jamie's and Tui's hideout.
An old demented man named Putty, whose mother was a midwife, brings a birthing manual for Tui.
Some ask Jamie who got Tui pregnant and Jamie responds in riddles.
Jamie spots Matt's "hunters" entering the woods.
Luke and Mark find the canoes that the friends have used.
The kids chant "happy birthday" to Tui before going to sleep.
In the morning everybody leaves except Jamie.
When they get to the canoes, they are ambushed by Luke and Mark.
Luke and Mark terrorize the kids to be told where Tui is hiding while Matt
at the compound is gathering a crowd of dubious characters, offering them
a reward for finding Tui and threatening them with death if they hurt Tui.
Al takes Robin on his boat with the pretext of a fishing trip.
Robin wonders aloud how Al can afford such a luxury lifestyle.
Suddenly, Al stops the boat in the middle of the lake and a smiling Matt comes out of the cabin. Matt wants to make a deal with Robin but before he can explain
his deal Johnno shows up in a motorboat and takes Robin away (he heard of the fishing trip from his half-brothers Luke and Mark).
Robin and Johnno climb a hill and see the many men hired by Matt spreading
The "hunters" find the shack where Tui and Jamie are hiding but Tui grabs
her gun and calmly starts shooting at them.
They keep coming closer. Jamie and Tui run.
Meanwhile, Johnno and Robin hear the gunshots and run towards them.
As the hunters are about to catch her, Tui falls down a cliff to her death
near where Robin is... except that it is not Tui but Jamie wearing Tui's clothes: he misled the hunters while Tui was running somewhere else.
Johnno and Robin load the corpse into their boat and take it to Jamie's mother Simone.
Tui is up on the hills, wearing Jamie's hoodie and still grabbing her gun.
She can see the scene and shoots angrily in the air.
Simone tells Robin that Jamie cannot be the one who got Tui pregnant: he was gay.
Matt pretends to be devastated by the tragedy and offers Simone the reward money, but Simone refuses it and curses him.
Simone visits Robin and tells her that she's ready to testify against Matt, and the other girls who work for him in the illicit drug lab will do it too.
Johnno and Robin are back together.
Al tells Robin that Matt wants to make a confession, but at his own home, alone with Robin, not at the police station.
Johnno warns Robin that it's probably a trick, a setup.
Robin is also concerned that Tui should give birth any moment now, and Tui is alone in the woods.
When Robin meets Matt, Matt doesn't have a crime to confess but a revelation to make to her, a personal one: he is her father, the man who got her mother Jude pregnant.
Now it's clear why her mother didn't want Robin to date Johnno: he is her half-brother.
Robin has been staying at her father's cabin, which now means she's been staying at a cabin owned by Matt himself.
She refuses to believe Matt and insists that her
father drowned, as Jude told her.
Back home, Johnno doesn't believe Matt's story and suggests that she takes a
DNA test. She sobs, clearly suspecting that Matt's story might be true.
The following morning Robin tells Al what Matt told her.
Al tells her that he knows and that they were going to tell her that day on the fishing trip.
Robin still wants to prosecute Al now that there are witnesses willing to testify.
Al, however, removes Robin from the case because she could be Matt's daughter, a conflict of interest.
Feeling that Al is simply trying to derail the investigation (perhaps the whole point of Matt's "confession"),
she leaves her badge on Al's desk and walks out without saying a word.
Later she gets drunk and in the middle of the night drives to Paradise,
getting injured in the process. Her face is all scarred.
The women care for her. In the morning
Robin has become one of them, traumatized by a personal tragedy, in need of
"healing". She tells G.J. she is not whom she thought she was and she doesn't know how to keep living. G.J. shows no sympathy and scolds her with one of her
rambling philosophical speeches that at the end always praise the
intelligence of the body.
A helicopter working for Matt spots Putty on a motorcycle with a trailer heading for a location called
with supplies that look like supplies for a baby.
Matt in his compound is getting delirious. He mumbles that a child cannot have a baby, is hurt that
Simone blames him for Jamie's death, and is scared that all of his lab's women have deserted him.
Luke and Mark try in vain to calm him down. Out of control, Matt insults them.
Meanwhile, Putty is on foot in the woods, carrying milk and other stuff, and reaches Tui, who is about to give birth. The helicopter spots them and alerts Matt.
Matt grabs a gun, determined to head for Chinaman's.
Luke and Mark fight with him to stop him but in vain.
Mark phones Johnno for help. Johnno picks up Robin in Paradise and they drive to Chinaman's.
Meanwhile, Putty comically reads his mother's manual to find out how to help Tui but doesn't even get close to her. Luckily, Tui doesn't need his help and gives birth to a baby boy.
It's night. Johnno and Robin find Matt's truck in Chinaman's.
Matt has already found Putty and Tui. Putty simply closes his eyes.
Tui is asleep with the baby. Matt doesn't wake her up and simply takes the baby.
Johnno and Robin hear the baby cry and arrive just when Matt is pointing his gun at the baby.
Before Johnno can do anything someone else shoots Matt dead: Tui, who emerges
Tui, hissing like a rattlesnake, reloads the gun and shoots Johnno too, wounding him.
She then reloads and points the gun at Robin but Robin calmly takes the gun from her and hugs her.
(Somehow the gunshots made the baby stop crying).
They take Tui and the baby to Paradise.
The baby is named Noah.
Al has DNA tests performed on everybody and the results show that
Matt is the father of Tui's baby but not Johnno's father.
(Apparently no DNA test is performed for Robin).
Al takes Tui and other teenage friends of hers to go get pizza and relax, leaving the baby to Paradise.
Robin and Johnno take the baby with them to a coffee shop.
Robin is anxious. Johnno tries to call Tui but she doesn't pick up the phone.
The coffee shop has pictures of all the kids who graduated from the bartender class: Tui, Jamie, April... Robin also sees a picture that she already saw in Bob's computer: Al is there with some men and some of the kids.
Robin thinks about it and, without a word, rushes out, leaving Johnno with the baby.
Robin drives to Al's house, picks up her gun and knocks.
Al says that Tui and the others have left, but Robin calls Tui's number and
she can hear the phone ring inside the house. Al doesn't let her in.
Robin points the gun at Al, Al grabs it, they pull and push, and the guns goes
off and kills Al.
Inside the house Robin finds a bottle of "roofies" (the rape drug) and
Tui asleep on a couch.
She walks downstairs to the drug lab. That's the brown room with
a deer head that she saw in Bob's computer.
She sees adult men dragging the bodies of unconscious drugged teenagers,
make a video and arrests the men.
That's the terrifying thing that Bob witnessed.
Al has been pimping teenage kids from the bartender class to perverts,
and one of them is the one who got Tui's pregnant.
Some time later, Robin and Tui are back to Paradise.
G.J. packs her suitcase and walks away into the wilderness.
Tui runs after her, but G.J. sends her back after telling her:
"You've got a real teacher now. Make sure you pay attention to him."
The film ends without clarifying if we can believe anything that Al said:
is Matt the father of Tui's baby?
is Matt her father? is he Johnno's father?
Top of the Lake - China Girl (2017)