Directed by Kitty Green | Written by Green and Oscar Redding | 91 min | ▲▲▲▲△
A review of this film first appeared on FITI during TIFF in September.
This exceptional new drama from Kitty Green, the director of The Assistant, reunites her with the breakout star of that one. Julia Garner. Garner’s paired with Jessica Henwick (Glass Onion) as Hanna and Liv, two (presumably American, though they pretend to be Canadian) pals on an antipodean journey who run out of money.
Liv’s a whole lot more carefree than Hanna, but it’s through Hanna’s eyes that we see the film’s events. That becomes especially clear when the friends agree to take a job at a bar in an outback mining town, a grimy, sweat-stained place where the local workforce — almost all dudes — come in to spend their wages, get loaded, and hit on the fetching ladies on the staff.
With this effort Green’s made an overt, slippery horror movie, ratcheting up the tension through Garner’s understandably anxious Hanna. Also on board is the always excellent Hugo Weaving as the alcoholic bar owner, giving an award-worthy supporting performance as someone who just can’t hold it together or offer much help to his staff who are on the front line of this very gendered experience.
By the mid-point of the film every scene carries with it a decision for both Hanna and Liv, which allows the audience to make a call whether those choices will put either or both of them in real danger.
In some respects it feels like The Royal Hotel is in conversation with Kate Beaton’s Ducks — a graphic memoir detailing the Cape Breton cartoonist’s time as a young woman working in the Oil Sands of Alberta. Both are portraits of the isolated places in the world where little has changed in generations and where men feel a sense of impunity regarding their behaviour with women. Thematically The Royal Hotel shares a number of elements in common with the director’s previous work, The Assistant, in that both are workplace pictures and both nail a certain brand of masculine entitlement. Like The Assistant it’s chilling, but essential, viewing.