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Rating: 4 out of 5.

In society, a persistent issue has always existed where the patriarchal world fails to acknowledge women as powerful forces, intelligent beings with minds of their own, or individuals capable of making equally important decisions as men. It’s as if granting power to a woman might allow her to overtake the world.

“The Royal Hotel” presented a deeply unsettling experience, reminiscent of observing a group of angry and sexually obsessed men futilely attempting to revive a dying horse. Despite Liv (Jessica Henwick) and Hanna (Julia Garner) being far from defeated, finding themselves in a rural Australian town where women are regarded as “fresh meat” raises questions about their choices. One can’t help but wonder if these two young women had no alternative but to subject themselves to such a distressing situation, where men could easily violate their minds and souls.

Penned by Kitty Green and Oscar Redding, with direction by Kitty Green, Hanna and Liv, facing financial hardship, grasp at the opportunity to work at the pub “The Royal Hotel” as if it were situated in a luxurious locale. However, it’s anything but that. Bar owner Billy (Hugo Weaving), perennially inebriated, warmly welcomes the young women. While they elevate the male presence in the small mining town, they become objects of attention for men who wager on who will seduce them first. The atmosphere is raucous, disrespectful, and insulting, dismissing the desires and opinions of Hanna and Liv as inconsequential.

Initially, everything seems manageable. They receive salaries and a place to live—what more could they desire? However, the men in town have different plans, mostly involving Hanna and Liv opening their bedroom doors. The toxic environment becomes unbearable to watch, leaving the audience feeling gutted and angry. Picture a group of unrestrained men consuming alcohol like water, reckless with their words, uttering vile things as though their crude language were pleasant and beautiful. What is most disconcerting is that their ranting and displeasure with rejection never cease, escalating to the point where the two women must defend themselves. But can they, given the power balance is not in their favor?

Julia Garner delivers an outstanding performance as Hanna, a young woman who cannot be deceived by anybody. Liv, on the other hand, is more naive than her friend, allowing mistakes to occur on her end. Fortunately, she has a steadfast and reliable friend who will go through hell to ensure Liv remains unharmed. As you watch the film, you come to realize that the definition of hell is that pub, almost like a city in Lars Von Trier’s “Dogville”—better for it never to exist for the sake of humanity. “The Royal Hotel” places everything at stake, including Hanna and Liv’s dignity and their ability to fight for themselves. They may be easily outnumbered and defeated, but the environment director Kitty Green creates is too perfectly and delicately balanced for you to miss the central truth: no man can trifle with a woman willing to fight back—hard.

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