Two backpackers and good friends, Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick), are having the time of their lives as the cruise ship they are currently travelling on enters Sydney, Australia. However, their wild times of travelling and partying halt when Liv discovers they have run out of money. While in Sydney, Hanna and Liv inquire about work, hoping to earn cash quickly so they can move on with their travels. Thankfully, they are allowed to work at a pub known as The Royal Hotel, but the catch is it’s located in the middle of nowhere, and most customers are men currently working in the mines. With no choices available, they take the job.
As Hanna and Liv arrive at the destination, they soon meet the pub’s owner, Billy (Hugo Weaving), who gives the tour and basic instructions on how to serve the drinks most effectively. As they begin to work, they soon make many discoveries about the community and its locals. Harsh and inappropriate behaviour continues to surface, making Hanna and Liv question their safety while attempting to get back on the road again. Who within the community can be trusted? And can Hanna and Liv work together to survive the nightmare they just entered?
The Royal Hotel is a slow-burning thriller directed by Kitty Green, who has once again reunited with actress Julia Garner after previously working together on The Assistant (2019). While the film is a slow burn, it’s also a tense watch filled with unpredictability. In essence, Hanna and Liv are in an unknown and unfamiliar territory. They have no reception, no trust for others, and the only thing that can be relied on is each other. We learn that Liv is more laid back and trusting of strangers, while Hanna is more cautious and guarded.
Performances here are stunning from both leads, as is the supporting role by actor Hugo Weaving, who seems entirely in his element and relatable with his mannerisms and dialogue. Side performances from the members of the community are also well-acted. I continually found myself guessing if paying customers would later be a threat to our leads as the film progressed. The location and setting are highly fitting, and the concept of isolation or being stranded with no help or support is felt. While the pacing is slightly slower than I preferred, the finale felt greatly rewarding, entertaining, and unexpected.
Overall, The Royal Hotel wasn’t what I expected. It was far more enjoyable and tense with unpredictable and uncertain characters. Performances are all excellent, including the leads Jessica Henwick and Julia Garner and the supporting cast, which includes the talented Hugo Weaving. The biggest issue was the pacing, which is slow or drags on. I found the building of tension and finale rewarding. After viewing a Kitty Green film for the first time and experiencing a trip to ‘The Royal Hotel’, I will now seek out her past work.
The Royal Hotel (2023) is Available in Australian Cineams from November 23rd.