The Royal Hotel
Widely hailed as the reunion of the actor-director duo behind 2019’s surprise hit The Assistant (one of the first films to emerge out of the ripples caused by the Harvey Weinstein scandal and still commonly regarded as the best), The Royal Hotel premiered at Telluride before travelling to Toronto, San Sebastián and now London.
On a booze binge vacation in Australia, friends Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) run out of money. Via a local Work and Travel agency, the girls are sent to tend bar at an outback inn to be able to afford their stay. Instead of any culinary specials, The Royal Hotel announces their new staff to customers with a sign promising “fresh meat”. With each shady character they encounter in the pub, Hanna’s discomfort at their precarious situation grows.
Marketed as a thriller, the slow burn of its subdued but disconcerting scenarios gives The Royal Hotel the feel of an atmospheric horror film at times, depicting the monsters that are drunk men. Garner and Henwick authentically capture the differing viewpoints of young women propelled into the unrelenting spotlight of male attention, and while their tension is vital to the plot, the script leaves questions as to why their characters are friends if they have so little in common and do not trust the other’s intuition. Almost blasphemous to note, the secret star of this feminist feature is Hugo Weaving, barely recognisable as the alcoholic bar owner Billy, but all the more astonishing in his boundlessness.
Camerawork and sound design effectively set up a nervous suspense, but the continued minimalism of the story only remotely justifies keeping the viewer this highly strung, as the film leaves the aftertaste of never having taken off after all that metaphorical taxiing.
Kitty Green’s second fiction feature proficiently sticks to her motif of exposing the myriad of ways sexism presents itself, focusing again on the power imbalance women still suffer in any workplace, but doesn’t hit as hard as her debut.
The Royal Hotel is released nationwide on 3rd November 2023.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for The Royal Hotel here: