‘The Royal Hotel’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Did Hanna Burn Down The Hotel?


Based on the 2016 documentary Hotel Coolgardie, Kitty Green’s The Royal Hotel is a fictionalized version of the true horrors experienced by two Finnish backpackers, Lina and Stephie, whose names, along with a few other factual details, have been changed in the 2023 film. In the film, we come across the fictionalized Hanna and Liv, who arrive in Sydney, Australia, to live life to the fullest. Later in the film, a character asks Liv why she chose Australia, to which she replies, “It was the furthest away.” Though the film doesn’t explore their backstory in detail, it is suggested that they weren’t happy and were running away from some kind of embarrassment. Nevertheless, quite early in the film, it is established that Hannah and Liv’s credit card stopped working while they were partying on a cruise, which implies that they didn’t have a good relationship with their family, or the ones left behind. In real life, their credit cards were stolen in Bali after which the backpackers had to apply for work and travel programs to pay for their expenses. However, it isn’t the main conflict of the film, but what awaits them in the Wild West of Australia. So, without further ado, let’s break down The Royal Hotel and explore the mental and emotional torture Liv and Hanna had to go through during their stay.

Spoiler Alert

How Did Liv and Hanna End Up in the Wild West?

After Liv and Hanna fell short of cash and credit in a totally foreign country, they quickly contacted a work and travel program agency that helped them get a barmaid’s job in a remote mining area in Western Australia. The agency representative subtly asked them if they would like a little male attention without explaining any further. However, that was the warning sign that Liv and Hanna initially ignored for some easy cash and adventure. As soon as they arrived in the remote location, they found out that there wasn’t any phone signal in there, which meant they wouldn’t be able to call for help. Additionally, the location was far away from a proper town, which meant the people out there could be more dangerous than animals themselves. Hanna had been skeptical about the entire arrangement since the beginning, but Liv convinced her to give it a try. Unwillingly, Hanna agreed to stay, but one can say that was the worst decision of their lives.

What Happened in the Hotel?

Billy had inherited The Royal Hotel from his grandfather and was trying to keep the business afloat at all costs. However, it was quite evident that Billy was racist, misogynistic, and an alcoholic, like most of the miners in the area. The man-child was being handled by Carol, an Aboriginal Australian who was in charge of the kitchen. It was only because of Carol that the hotel and Billy had survived for so long; otherwise, they would have turned to ruins much sooner. The two Britishers had been working as bartenders before Hanna and Liv, and they left the place as soon as the new girls arrived.

The Royal Hotel didn’t waste a moment establishing the fact that all the men who came to the bar were monsters and savages. The old ones found their solace in making inappropriate jokes and remarks about the new girls, while the young ones didn’t miss a chance to flirt with them. The three major monsters in the film were Dolly, Matty, and Teeth. For these locals, the new girls were just fresh meat, and they reflected the same through their actions. Hanna quickly realized that it wasn’t the blunt ones that she should be cautious of, but the soft-spoken monsters like Dolly and Matty, who were wolves in sheep’s skin. Once, Matty tried to force himself upon Hanna, and certainly, the man didn’t know the meaning of consent. The film further established that there were no civilized men in the vicinity, and even if there were, then The Royal Hotel wasn’t their favorite spot. It was a dungeon for the savages and was indeed run by one.

Racial discrimination was evident throughout the runtime of the film. The locals weren’t just indifferent towards the old girls and the new girls, but also Carol and all the indigenous people in town. One of Carol’s relatives brought groceries to the hotel, but when Liv asked him to come inside, he quickly denied the offer. The stiffness and tension was quite visible on his face, suggesting the fact that indigenous people (except for Carol) weren’t allowed in the bar. Additionally, Billy hadn’t paid Timmy for 3 months and owed him some 4300 Australian dollars. Carol fought for Timmy, but it was certain that Billy had no intention of paying him, just like he had no intention of paying Hanna and Liv.

Why was Dolly threatening Hanna?

Unlike Matty and Teeth, Dolly wasn’t the kind of monster who would try to hide his intentions behind a smiling face. He wasn’t a charmer like Matty or an obsessed lover like Teeth. Instead, Dolly was much more cunning and tactical. He could see that Liv was easy prey for him, but Hanna was a hard nut to crack. Dolly could have had his chance with Liv if Hanna hadn’t intervened, which was the reason why Dolly tried to humiliate and threaten Hanna so she would get out of his way and submit like all women should (what he believed). The man didn’t even mind trespassing on the hotel premises at night and showed up at the door where Hanna and Liv were staying. It was quite evident that Dolly was chasing Liv like a hungry wolf, who wanted to satisfy his desires, but Hanna guarded her until the very end.

When all his tactics failed, Dolly tried to sow a seed of doubt. Liv didn’t see the monster behind that civilized face, but Hanna could very well perceive what Dolly wanted. At night, after a short banter with Hanna, Dolly left a snake in their apartment, only to frighten the new girls further. However, in a heroic manner, he took away the snake quickly, as he wanted to show Liv that he wasn’t a bad person and was just trying to help. The next day, he left the snake in a jar inside the bar to send a message to Hanna. Liv believed it might be in their culture, but Hanna knew that it was a declaration of war.

Why did Carol leave the hotel?

Soon after this incident, Hanna wanted to leave, but Billy refused to pay them. Carol, who had been hearing all the fuss, couldn’t take it anymore and finally revolted against the oppressor. Billy, being drunk to his neck, fell to the ground with the cash machine and injured himself. It was an opportunity for Carol to put everything behind and start afresh, and that’s what she did. She dropped Billy off at a nearby hospital because she cared for the man even when she knew he was a monster. Later, she went on a holiday, but we think that she won’t return to the same hell again. She would be better without it.

Before leaving, Carol, being the only sensible person in the deserted hell, advised the girls to run the hotel for a couple of nights so that they could have enough money to leave the town. She also informed Hanna that a storm was coming soon, and as the audience, we all knew that her words meant much more than their literal meaning. In Billy and Carol’s absence, all the animals were going to come out of the dark caves and become the monsters they really were to hunt down the only prey that had arrived in town. Hanna wanted to leave the place as soon as possible, but the next bus would arrive only after two long days, and she knew what could happen in the meantime.

Why did Hanna burn down the hotel?

On their last night in town, Hanna held a party at the bar to celebrate Liv’s birthday. The entire town of savages invited itself. Dolly found this to be a perfect opportunity to take Liv away to the hills, but Hanna was able to protect her friend. Dolly, however, had been able to create a misunderstanding between Hanna and Liv. He tried to broaden the gap between the two friends so that he could separate them from each other and attack the most vulnerable one. Fortunately, Hanna gathered enough courage to raise an ax against the preparators, though Matty pushed her hard, and she hit herself with the wooden handle. Seeing Hanna bleed, Liv came back to her senses and tried to get away from Dolly. Fortunately, Teeth arrived there and punched Dolly down so that he would let the girls be at peace. But Teeth was no knight in shining armor here. He wanted to own Liv, like all the other animals in town. He wanted to make Liv his winning trophy, but when she refused to go with him, Teeth didn’t waste a moment to hurl expletives before walking out of the hotel door. At this juncture, the girls had had enough, but they had no way to express their grief and anger.

During The Royal Hotel‘s ending, Hanna started breaking things inside the bar, and it gave her a sense of relief. Soon, Liv joined the hustle, and together, they broke down the entire bar, symbolizing they wouldn’t stop until the hell hole was completely destroyed. At one point, Hanna crossed the snake that had fallen out of the broken jar, suggesting that she wasn’t afraid of the reptile monsters in the town and was able to take a leap of faith toward her friend. She lit the “symbolic” lighter to burn the place down. The lighter probably underlined the fact that misogyny itself was the reason for the destruction of the Royal Hotel. A place and its people who cannot respect its employees and women couldn’t and shouldn’t be a part of the world and, therefore, should be burned to ashes. The woman walked out of the town as the Royal Hotel went up in flames in the background.

Did Dolly sell Jules?

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Dolly was the most mysterious and vicious character in the entire film. In the beginning, we found out that Dolly offered to drop the old girls, Cassie and Jules, off at Wadup, as they had missed their bus. However, Jules soon returned to the hotel as she had forgotten her hat, but what happened to her next is quite a mystery. At the end of the film, Hanna gets a call from Jules, where she asks for Kev (the man she slept with) and Dolly (the man who had dropped her off at Wadup). Now, the way she sounded does make us suspicious of Dolly’s personality. Did he really drop Jules off at Wadup or did he leave her at some dangerous place? The Royal Hotel had frequently established the fact that women were just commodities for these savages, and thus, it wouldn’t be wrong to speculate that Dolly sold the girl to prostitution, and he was going to do the same with Liv if Hanna hadn’t saved her from the clutches of the monster.

The film doesn’t reveal or explain what Dolly was really trying to do, so much of it leaves much to your imagination. The thing is, there isn’t a limit to how horrible these men could be, and therefore, it is impossible to predict what crimes they have committed against these women. Perhaps it was one of the reasons why Hanna set The Royal Hotel on fire so that no more innocent women could fall prey to these savages.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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