No one paints the horror of toxic masculinity like Kitty Green does.
The Royal Hotel sees Hanna (Julia Garner) and Liv (Jessica Henwick) resorting to take up a dire live-in job behind the bar in a remote desert part of Western Australia. Although they're warned that they'd "have to be okay with a little male attention" in the outcast mining town, their financial precarity overrides the potential fear. Curiously enough, the fiction film is based on a real story, already told in the 2016 documentary Hotel Coolgardie by Pete Gleeson, but The Assistant director Kitty Green pulls no punches when representing how suffocating it must feel to be encircled by such unmediated male aggression. The brawls, the spilled beer, the c-word as a greeting all form the unnerving paraphernalia of life then and there. For Australian independent film devotees, there is actor Toby Wallace, who reprises his bad boy role from Babyteeth, and he's joined by the ranks of Herbert Nordrum (The Worst Person in the World) and an utterly terrifying Hugo Weaving (The Matrix).
The star of Ozark and The Assistant, Julia Garner is once again, perfecting the stone-cold look of disapproval that acts as a shield from men's perilous presence. Her waspish Hanna can carry the weight of the whole world on her tense shoulders, and still manage to work the bar after hours. In one crushingly tense moment one of the male customers likens her to a grizzly bear in a desperate negging gesture, but her lack of response is as frightening as the predator itself flaring its nostrils at you. Greene's piercing gaze goes straight to your heart via the camera's direct address and conveys the horror of being perceived by men. As a result, Hanna becomes a hero fighting for all the girls who know too well that dangerous shift from being an object of desire to an object of violent hate.