For purely selfish reason our Editor is always happy to see Australian backpackers in London knowing that The Nags Head will shortly have new bar staff that he can coerce into starting a new tab for him. But in The Royal Hotel it’s all reversed when two Canadian backpackers Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) travelling across Australia soon find their funds depleted to nothing and are forced into taking bar work. All fine and dandy until they find that the only bar available for them is the ironically named Royal Hotel, a dilapidated bar so remote that’s it’s a wonder that Lord Lucan wasn’t hiding out there. The patrons are hardly royalty with the sort of attitude towards women that might even have Prince Andrew taking issue.
From the moment they arrive, the venue immediately has them on the back foot meeting the Brit girls they are taking over from and in typically Brits abroad style they’re ladette party girls free and easy with their favours that suggests that when they get back to dear old Blighty they’re earnings will go straight into the Doctors pocket at the STD clinic. Equality and respect for women has not reached the isolated bar with the owner Billy (Hugo Weaving) addressing them both in the most derisory manner. The clientele on their first night and the Brits girls last night turns out to be a raucous event.
For Hannah especially it’s an intimidating atmosphere, constantly told to smile as the male patrons leer over them making inappropriate jokes – but it’s not just that, one of the regulars Dolly (Daniel Henshall) is a frightening presence sitting at the end of the bar drinking heavily and brooding. One particularly alarming moment with him has Hanna her telling Liv, ‘I’m scared of everyone and everything in this place!’. The bar having been a kind of ramped up Coyote Ugly type venue quickly becomes a very obvious place of danger for young women and when one character comments about the weather that, ‘There’s a storm coming in!’ they’re not wrong.
The Royal Hotel was inspired by a 2017 documentary about Finnish backpackers in a similar situation facing sexist misogyny and was an unsettling view and a none too positive representation of Australian men and their attitudes in the remote outback untouched by modern sensibilities. There’s a constant sense of dread about the place, a feeling that anything could happen at any time to these two lone women where no one would be any the wiser if something did happen to them and there are scenes which suggest that one wrong look, one wrong word could bring it all down on the women.
A kind of ‘tourists find trouble’ film The Royal Hotel is directed and co-written by Kitty Green and captures an increasingly uneasy atmosphere and Julia Garner is especially good as her friendship begins to fray and Hugo Weaving as a tight fisted, potty mouthed misogynist is only just kept in check by his partner Carol (Ursula Yovich) who is equally good. There’s a suggestion that they’re running from something, especially Liv, which is only briefly hinted at and there’s an ending which is the stuff of thrillers but that aside The Royal Hotel is an unwavering reminder that toxic masculinity is still out there.
related feature : Where did they find that village in The Equalizer 3
related feature : Odeya Rush talks action and kicking guys asses in, ‘Dangerous Waters’
Here’s The Royal Hotel trailer…..