Featuring: Julia Garner, Jessica Henwick, Toby Wallace, Hugo Weaving, Ursula Yovich, Daniel Henshall, James Frecheville, Herbert Nordrum
Director: Kitty Green
In Cinemas: 3rd November 2023
Hanna and Liv are best friends backpacking in Australia; after they run out of money, Liv, looking for an adventure, convinces Hannah to take a temporary live-in job behind the bar of a pub called ‘The Royal Hotel’ in a remote Outback mining town. Bar owner Billy and a host of locals give the girls a riotous introduction to Down Under drinking culture, but soon Hanna and Liv find themselves trapped in an unnerving situation that grows rapidly out of their control.
The Royal Hotel is Director Kitty Green’s Fourth Feature length following the Documentary ‘Ukraine Is Not a Brothel’ ‘Casting JonBenet’ and her most recent Drama ‘The Assistant’. Based on the documentary ‘Hotel Coolgardie’ (2016), this film hints at similar themes in horror movies such as ‘Hostel’ and ‘Wolf Creek.’ It has a great look, but it fills you with unbearable frustration from the moment we enter the pub. The major problem with the movie is the need for more character-building and explanation of the background in specific scenarios. Most of the film predominantly centres around the people in the bar and the regular customers who come and go. Some interesting-looking characters could have the potential to explore their back story, but that has yet to be attempted. There is always this element of presumption when trying to understand people and their demeanour. The hotel owner has a drinking problem and lives in a caravan outside the pub, and his wife (I think) leaves him. Details like that are murky and need to be fleshed out more, even to try and have any connection and interest to the plot.
Unfortunately, the film continually follows this frustrating habit when introduced to new people and dilemmas; there is always a need for a more creative narrative when explaining information to the audience. It came to a point where you don’t seem to care anymore about people in hostile situations because you don’t know them or have any reason to be concerned. The exasperation thickens at our main characters’ decision in the concluding scene; it raises questions about its unexpected necessity, confusing us with annoyance. The overall message is strong in certain places; this idea is raised about men’s ‘entitlement’ when confronted in situations involving young women and how they treat females in social settings. There is an awareness of vulnerability that we can sense in moments of confrontation. But in times of desperation, the movie gets confusing and feels improvised as the dialogue gets weak and effortless. Julia Garner and Jessica Henwick’s performances are brilliant and work well with one another. The Royal Hotel is OK for a wet Sunday viewing and isn’t a bad film. It strives to be overcomplicated when introducing metaphors in quiet undertones when unnecessary, but attempts were made to be original and creative.