TIFF 2023: Our Review of ‘The Royal Hotel’

Posted in TIFF 2023 by - September 13, 2023
TIFF 2023: Our Review of ‘The Royal Hotel’

The Royal Hotel is Thelma and Louise for the TikTok generation, and we are here for it! Directed by acclaimed feminist filmmaker Kitty Green, it tells the story of two backpackers, Liv (Jessica Henwick) and Hanna (Julia Garner). Out of money, the young women find work at a pub in a remote Outback mining town. The temp agency that places them warns the young women they’ll need to be okay with “male attention,” which we know is code for sexual harassment.

Observational in style, Green’s second narrative film expertly builds tension as the backpackers uncover the seedy nature of their surroundings. When Hanna and Liv first arrive at the titular Royal Hotel’s bar, the sexism they encounter feels upsetting but casual. The owner blithely refers to Hanna as the C-word, but insists he means it as a compliment. In response, Liv wonders if epithet has a different meaning in Australia. Soon, however, the misogyny ramps up and it’s obvious no one is joking…

Ultimately, The Royal Hotel is a meditation on how terrifying it is to be a woman. Besides the fact that the mining town is mostly occupied by men, the world presented is banal. Everything from the pub itself to the fashions feel realistic and familiar, driving home how this sort of gendered violence can and does happen anywhere.

If you’re in the market for a movie that honours female friendship while critiquing toxic masculinity, The Royal Hotel is just what the doctor (of Gender Studies) ordered!

This post was written by
Sarah Sahagian is a feminist writer based in Toronto. Her byline has appeared in such publications as The Washington Post, Refinery29, Elle Canada, Flare, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. She is also the co-founder of The ProfessionElle Society. Sarah holds a master’s degree in Gender Studies from The London School of Economics. You can find her on Twitter, where she posts about parenting, politics, and The Bachelor.
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