Unfortunately, the lackluster ending of this film from Australian filmmaker Kitty Green, known for the powerful #MeToo film The Assistant in 2019, diminishes its impact. While The Royal Hotel started off as a gripping and well-acted psychological thriller and outback noir, the final scares and resolution of the plot fall short.
As a co-author alongside Oscar Redding, Green draws inspiration from Hotel Coolgardie, a gritty and unsettling documentary about a chaotic pub in the remote regions of Western Australia. The pub frequently hires female backpackers to work as bartenders, but these women quickly come to realize that this is not the lively and comical establishment portrayed in Crocodile Dundee. Instead, it is a place filled with unpleasant and menacing sexism, disguised as harmless banter.
In this fictional adaptation, Julia Garner and Jessica Henwick portray the characters of Hanna and Liv. As they travel through Australia, their funds diminish and they are compelled to accept a questionable job at the Royal Hotel in a desolate location. They are tasked with managing the rowdy miners who frequent the establishment. The owner, Billy (played by Hugo Weaving), is an alcoholic with depression, but the pub relies on the tireless efforts of Carol (Ursula Yovich) to stay afloat. Unfortunately, Carol, like other Indigenous Australians, is subject to condescension and exploitation. Liv adapts to the situation and brushes off the misogyny, but Hanna becomes increasingly disturbed by it.
Where are we headed with all the danger in the air? Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to that question; it’s possible that the real-life inspiration has caused a sense of uncertainty, resulting in the film not being distinctly scary or dramatic. However, the acting from Garner, Henwick, Yovich, and Weaving is commendable.