DRAMA; 1hr 31min
STARRING: Julia Garner, Jessie Henwick, Hugo Weaving
Wake in more fright: from left, Henwick and Garner
For Hanna and Liv (Garner and Henwick), American backpackers AWOL from something or someone undefined and fresh out of funds in Australia, the only paid-employment option dumps them in the endless rust of the Outback. Hulking like a shipwreck on a dying planet, the Royal Hotel has to be the ultimate bottom rung. Its boss, Billy (Weaving), is a churlish tightwad, and the elbow-benders who pack the place out on the girls’ first night behind the bar couldn’t be less appealing. Hanna is keen to cut and run — who in their right mind wouldn’t be? But when Liv, the optimist, urges her to “put up with it for a few more weeks,” you are in no doubt that the only place these two sitting ducks are headed is into dire straits.
As the days grind by, certain home truths take shape. Matty (Toby Wallace) is hopelessly sweet on Hanna, Dolly (Daniel Henshall) is an unstable dark horse, Billy is a drunk along with practically everybody else, and too much liquor is never a good look, especially when it’s the only look in sight.
The Royal and its regulars are bound to feel queasily familiar to anybody who has spent time soaking up far-flung Australia. That authenticity isn’t automatically a plus: like pickled eggs and breakfast schooners, the ethos of hard-core drinking tends to be an acquired taste. Director and co-writer Kitty Green, who did an uncomfortable number on office toxicity with 2019’s The Assistant, in which the ever-awesome Garner also stars, is apparently once again unfazed by unpleasantness, allowing her latest rogues’ gallery to stew in its own liverish juice until mere stewing is no longer an option. By that low point, deliverance of any stripe is a relief.