The Royal Hotel 2023 Movie Scene Julia Garner as Hanna and Jessica Henwick as Liv arriving at the place for the first time

The Royal Hotel [2023]

Sometimes you play a movie not thinking that what’s about to happen is going to completely consume you in the following days, months, and probably years. You’re not aware that you’ll spend the next ninety minutes with a knot in your stomach and your palms sweaty. Please do not leave me, dear reader, as what you’re about to read and watch is mighty important. The Royal Hotel is a hauntingly realistic thriller about two backpackers who end up working in a remote bar in Australia. And please, dear reader, disregard the criminally low IMDb rating as this movie is a fucking masterpiece.

I know what you’re thinking right now. Two female backpackers plus Australian outback equals Wolf Creek. And while that’s a straight-up horror movie, this one is actually a combination of several genres: thriller, drama, and comedy. To make things even more interesting, both movies are inspired by real events. The Royal Hotel drew inspiration from a 2016 documentary Hotel Coolgardie. As if this movie needed any more help to fuck you up. As soon as you see the opening scene you’ll know that what you’re about to watch is nothing short of a tour de force of filmmaking.

The scene captures that “I’m young and I want to experience things” vibe incredibly effectively. Hanna and Liv are two young American girls who find themselves in Australia without any money. They decide to check out the popular Work and Travel program and instantly find two openings. The place that needs two barmaids is The Royal Hotel, a remote bar, deep in the mining country. As soon as they finished their interview and got on the bus, I got this bad feeling in my gut. I knew that something bad was going to happen, I just didn’t know what.

That uncomfortable feeling never went away. I wasn’t sure if I should tell you the full story, ultimately deciding that I’m not. Mostly because I want you to have the same experience I had. Julia Garner (Ozark) and Jessica Henwick (Underwater) were terrific along with none other than Elrond himself, Mr. Hugo Weaving. However, I think that mostly unknown Australian actors playing the miners stole the show here. Of course, they had great characters to work with. Kitty Green, who also directed the movie, and Oscar Redding wrote an amazing script.

If you’ve ever been to a bar like this you’ll recognize all of these people instantly. I actually worked in one and visited a dozen others and witnessed a lot of similar tense situations. This brings me back to that incredibly intense and uncomfortable atmosphere. I simply can’t shake it. The Royal Hotel also offers superior storytelling that’s going to take you on a rollercoaster of emotions. Everything here feels very realistic, carnal, and memorable. And also incredibly thought-provoking. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to go so deep.

You can watch this movie as a gripping thriller and leave it at that. However, if you want to go deeper, a chasm will open up before you. The main theme of The Royal Hotel is the dynamic between genders. I’m guessing this is partly the reason why the movie has such a low rating on IMDb. The other part of the equation is the lack of action. This is a movie that’s not focused on the action. So, do not go into it expecting that it’s going to entertain you with that type of content. I think people were expecting a familiar thriller structure with a bit of horror elements to spice things up.

They were looking for an emotional journey that had a beginning and a satisfying end. The Royal Hotel offers all of this but with a subversive twist. The pacing is rather slow and this is also a factor. However, I think that the setting and the atmosphere more than make up for that. Actually, the slower pacing enables you to fully immerse yourself in this story. Of course, I don’t have to tell you that all the technical stuff was top-notch. I mean, the cinematography, camera work, and everything else was excellent.

Finally, I just want to say that after French, Australian movies are quickly becoming my favorite ones. There’s something so magical, raw, and attractive about not just this country but also its people. I have a feeling they’re not fake and the movies they make strike at a core of what it means to be human. Moreover, they’re connecting us, movie fans. With that being said, I urge you to check out this stunning movie. And if you’re looking for something just as intense but more straightforward, Green Room is a perfect choice. 

Director: Kitty Green

Writers: Kitty Green, Oscar Redding

Cast: Julia Garner, Jessica Henwick, Herbert Nordrum, Hugo Weaving, Ursula Yovich, James Frecheville

Fun Facts: The Royal Hotel was filmed in Yatina with its only bar, Yatina Hotel serving as the location for the “hotel” in the movie. The small town is in the middle of nowhere and it has a population of just nine people.


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