Seeking escape and adventure, two friends find their travels stumped by a lack of funds and prospects. To pay off their foreign exchange fees, the two join a ‘work-to-travel’ program which lands them in a remote Australian community. At first, they take it as a chance to discover a new part of the country and meet new people. However, the situation at the Royal Hotel Bar that they start working at quickly becomes uncomfortable due to the constant presence of the male mining workers who run in the village.
In Kitty Green’s latest film, The Royal Hotel, she continues to tell stories that give a female perspective to the challenges and, at some points, the horrors of working in areas dominated by men. (And, here, there certainly are a lot.) Led by excellent performances from Julia Garner (Ozark) as Hannah and Jessica Henwick (Glass Onion) as Liv, the film studies the ways that women have to deal with the constant advances of men and how their individuals actions can also change from harmless to life-threatening at a moments notice.
Even as the two friends strive to make the most of their less-than-favorable situation, they continually have to rely on the men who make this remote landscape their home, placing them in a position of power that they end up exploiting. Often movies that want to look at how much men can prey upon the vulnerability of women do so in a very exaggerated and often tragic manner yet none of these situations seem unrealistic in the slightest. Green gives her characters the power back and does so in a way that still looks at their vulnerability as they rely on each other to make it through the desert and head back home. The nature of the story feels less ambitious but it’s a very well-done story that feels like its confidently made and should give Green the acclaim and respect she needs to make an even more ambitious project in the future.
The Royal Hotel is now playing at TIFF ’23. For more information, click here.