THE ROYAL HOTEL
October 6, 2023 / Elevation Pictures
Julia Garner, Jessica Henwick, Hugo Weaving, James Frecheville, Toby Wallace, Daniel Henshall
Liv (Jessica Henwick) and Hanna (Julia Garner) run out of cash while backpacking in Australia and must take jobs in an exploitative pub to fund their trip home.
Written By Darren
Rating 3.5 out 5
The Royal Hotel boasts two strong performances from Julia Garner and Jessica Henwick in this chilling tale of toxic masculinity that will leave its mark on viewers.
Writer-director Kitty Green made her narrative feature debut with 2019’s The Assistant, which explored sexism in the entertainment industry, to great critical praise. For her second film, reteaming with star Julia Garner, Green has a narrative that shares themes with The Assistant that is based upon the 2016 documentary Hotel Coolgardie. This time around, Green transports viewers to a small, remote town in the Australian outback to a secluded pub where two young women are working as bartenders, highlighting the toxic culture of this small town and the dangerous masculinity that led to the terrifying experience faced by these two young women. It’s a chilling tale, but through the lead performances and Green’s writing, it is a timely and haunting film that demands to be seen.
Hanna and Liv are two young backpackers travelling through Australia. When they run out of money, they accept a temporary job working as bartenders in a remote Australian pub, serving the unruly locals. But as the situation gets steadily worse and rapidly out of control, Hanna and Liv find themselves in a far more dangerous predicament than they ever imagined.
There is not a bad performance in this film, with many of the male stars giving great performances as some truly frightening and unsettling characters with Hugo Weaving as Billy, James Frechville as Teeth, or the sweet Toby Wallace as Matt who generally seems to care for these two young women. But, this film is a showcase for the performances of Garner and Jessica Henwick, both of whom are outstanding from start to finish. Garner is unwavering as Hanna, displaying pure strength at every turn despite the horrors she faces as she tries to keep herself and her friend safe from the unwanted actions of the pub’s male patrons. Henwick is equally as impressive, giving a more tender performance as she becomes the target of lots of inappropriate and horrifying behaviour. Both Garner and Henwick capture authenticity in their performances, displaying their characters' vulnerabilities, mistakes and strength to create two real women in this film, rather than a superhero-esque character that just magically makes everything right. Needless to say, if you were not aware of the brilliance of these two actresses before seeing this film, you will be after their work here.
t’s the performances that make the film, but they would be nothing without Green’s writing and direction. Her screenplay slowly builds the tension between Hanna, Liv and the patrons of the pub, highlighting the toxic attitudes and behaviours of the male patrons. It's a chilling narrative told from the female perspective, empowering these two young women instead of portraying them as victims, set against the remote town which gives an isolating feeling to the entire film. The cinematography aids in generating this isolating feeling, capturing the desolate location showing the bareness and effectively trapping the audience, Hanna and Liv in this nightmare situation. Green’s direction ensures that the film does not lighten up for a second, crafting an uncomfortable film that will have you sitting on pins and needles hoping that Hanna and Liv will make it out of this small town unscathed. The fact that this is based on a documentary and is largely truthful to the actual story the film is based on, aside from some small narrative changes such as the nationality of Hanna and Liv, adds an unsettling layer to the entire experience. The final act does not fully live up the build up to it, going out with a slight fizzle in the final moments, but overall it's a terrifying final act and nerve wracking experience overall that you won’t soon forget.
Never for a second letting the audience breath or feel comfortable, Kitty Green has an important and harrowing story to tell in The Royal Hotel as she showcases the dangers of toxic, unchecked masculinity. With two outstanding performances from stars Julia Garner and Jessica Henwick, combined with Kitty Green’s direction and finely tuned screenplay, The Royal Hotel is a truly unsettling experience from start to finish that is guaranteed to have you pondering its story long after the credits have stopped rolling.