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The Royal Hotel – BFI London Film Festival 2023 (Film Review)

3 min read

Courtesy of BFI London Film Festival

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

When we see two women with backpacks in the middle of nowhere, the assumption is that we are about to watch a horror film. With one friend lusting for adventure and the other keen too but far more cautious about their surroundings. Director and co-writer Kitty Green sets us up to both show that horror doesn't have to be displayed on screen and steers clear of a predictable narrative. The result is a highly tense thriller that has your mind racing throughout.

Friends Liv and Hanna run out of money while travelling in Australia. To make some cash before resuming their grand adventure, they take jobs at a remotely located bar. Quickly assessing the situation, the more than rowdy regulars and the ‘culture' of the town, Hanna wants to leave. The more open to anything Liv however wants to stay. After one too many uncomfortable incidents and altercations, the tension that Hanna feels surrounding them, comes to a climatic breaking point.

Courtesy of the

After Green's intensely poignant and equally tense 2019 film The Assistant, its intriguing to see the director step into similar territory. This time the backdrop is completely different but the power dynamics are those we have seen and are familiar with. Based on the documentary Hotel Coolgardie, about two Scandinavian women who work at a bar in the outback, Green was inspired to make The Royal Hotel. Set in close quarters, despite the vast outback on the bar's doorstop, the two women are left to navigate the locals and are forced to manage, in particular, the men who go too far.

Hanna is constantly on guard and extremely aware of the precarious situation that she and Liv have ended up in. Like Jane in The Assistant before, Hanna sees all, is vary of the men's behaviour and feels as if she is the only one that can see what is going on. Liv doesn't side with her even when evidence is front of her, she seems determined to leave her worries behind or at least leave Hanna to take care of both of them. Both and are excellent in their roles, bringing us into their worlds, keeping us on tenterhooks throughout.

The so-called culture that the women experience ranges from inappropriate comments, physical and verbal harassment to straight up violent acts. Green, a keen observer, carefully creates every interaction, either pushing further or cutting short to what is expected. In every shot we're left to guess what will happen and this element of, for want of a better word, surprise is what makes the film so brilliantly intense. We feel every nerve twitch in Hanna, every scene filled with tension could be cut with a knife, or an axe. The Royal Hotel, like The Assistant, has far more to say that just the story content, which makes it a film that cannot be ignored.

The Royal Hotel  screened at BFI London Film Festival and will be released in cinemas on 3rd November 2023