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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Royal Hotel (MA) - 91 minutes

Men behaving very badly towards women and drinking to excess with consequences are the two themes running through The Royal Hotel.

 

The Royal Hotel director and co-writer (alongside Oscar Redding) Kitty Green first saw the documentary Hotel Coolgardie as an Australian film festival jury member.

 

That 2017 doco was her inspiration. She was taken by the story of two young Scandinavian women trapped in an Australian mining town.

 

While she had seen movies set in Aussie pubs before – many of them in remote communities – never through a female lens.

In The Royal Hotel, 25-year-old Hanna (Julia Garner), and Liv (Jessica Henwick), 24, are Canadians. They have chosen the furthest place from home to travel to and enjoy.

 

Running short of cash, they take the only jobs available at short notice, at a pub in an isolated mining town.

 

What greets them is hardly enticing – no wi-fi and limited hot water – let alone the extremely curt pub owner Billy (Hugo Weaving), who lays down the ground rules.

 

He lives in a caravan out the front of the watering hole with his indigenous girlfriend Carol (Ursula Yovich), who helps him out in the kitchen.

 

While Liv embraces their new environment, Hanna is less than impressed.

 

The patrons are a wild and rowdy bunch, who come on strong, while Billy is frequently falling, dead drunk and doesn’t pay his bills.

 

Hanna (given a crude nickname) is fearful and wants out, but Liv convinces her to stay on for a few more weeks.

 

It is a move that backfires … badly.

In short, The Royal Hotel shows Australians in a very negative light – as misogynistic boozers and reprobates.

 

It is a really ugly picture … and hard to watch, but that – of course – is the whole point.

 

You can have a great time without stepping over the mark, but apparently not in this remote corner of the country.

 

There is an edginess about The Royal Hotel from the get go that doesn’t let up … and the film is all the better for it.

 

I liked the contrasting characterisations of the two women.


Julia Garner presents Hanna as wary … more guarded, while Jessica Henwick’s Liv appears to be up for anything.

 

We sit back and wait, frustrated that we can’t do anything to influence the behaviour of the town’s inhabitants, which presents as an ever-present threat.

 

Hugo Weaving is powerful and pervasive as the rough and tumble publican on a slippery slope.

As Carol, Ursula Yovich appears resigned to her fate. Tough on the outside, she has a strong moral compass.

 

Matty (Toby Wallace) is perhaps the most interesting of the menfolk in town. The 25-year-old seems like a good guy, but when tanked up goes too far.

 

Teeth (James Frecheville) is desperate for some romantic action, but booze again affects him badly.

 

The most sinister of the lot is Dolly (Daniel Henshall).

 

Kitty Green has woven a taut psychological thriller that is anything but a Tourism Australia ad.

 

It is a warts and all portrait that hardly paints a pretty picture of the outback, save for a star infested skyline and a few arresting landscapes.

 

Nevertheless, The Royal Hotel stays with you long after you exit the cinema. Such is its imprint.

 

Rated MA, it scores an 8 out of 10.

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