Movie Review – Sweet Country

Imagine the most typical Australian film ever and you’ll end up with something that resembles Sweet Country.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Josip Knezevic 

The Australian film industry has always been obsessed with travelling back to colonial times to look at the atrocities and prejudice against Indigenous people. Following his 2009 award-winning film Samson and Delilah, Warwick Thornton continues to add to the likes of Rabbit-Proof Fence and Ten Canoes with his latest film Sweet Country.

Set in the Northern Territory in the 1920s, Sweet Country follows Sam (Hamilton Morris), a middle-aged Aboriginal farmer who kills a local white man in self-defence. Knowing his side of the story will be quickly dismissed by the law, Sam decides to go on the run with his wife, and the subsequent manhunt for Sam soon turns into a hunt for the true meaning of justice.

As Australians, we are proud to live in a country where freedom and peace are the standard way of life, but these values have been and continue to be denied to some. While not as powerful or relatable as Thornton’s modern retelling of the biblical Samson and Delilah, Sweet Country does serve as a reminder that we must never forget our roots, no matter how tough it may be to stomach.

In terms of storytelling, however, Sweet Country is a relatively stock standard affair. It’s a well-made piece of filmmaking, but it fails to truly captivate, mostly because we’ve seen better films handle the same subject matter in the past.

Sweet Country is still a worthy addition to Australian cinema, mostly thanks to its stunning cinematography. As he did with Samson and Delilah, Thornton once again takes on the duties of director and cinematographer, but this time around he has truly upped the ante. From vivid, orange sunsets to wide, sweeping shots of dense bushland and the red outback, the Australian landscape is on full display here.

Production designer Tony Cronin and costume designer Heather Wallace also deserve commendation for their faithful representation of the era, not only in what it looked like, but also in what it felt like. Those were tough times, and the sweat on people’s brows, and the dirt on their clothes works well to recreate the hardship experienced by people back then.

Sweet Country isn’t the most exciting film, but it is an important reminder for the pain and hard truths we will always face as Australians.

Sweet Country is available in Australian cinemas from January 25 

Image courtesy of Transmission Films

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Who Should’ve Won At The AACTAs

Josip Knezevic 

The AACTAs, Australia’s version of the Oscars, celebrate the finest achievements in Australian cinema. 2017 brought us a strong pool of nominees that represent a bright future for Australian film, and while these films won’t put Australia on the international film map as say Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand, they’re still remarkable achievements for Australian filmmaking.

Yes, you may be thinking the AACTAs took place in December last year, but seeing as it’s Australia Day long weekend, it seems apt to look back at who won versus who should have won and honour the greatest Australian films of 2017.

Best Film
Winner: Lion
Who Should Have Won: Ali’s Wedding

From the outset, it was obvious that Lion was going to take this top spot, as it did in so many categories. It boasts a much larger production budget than its fellow nominees and also features some of the world’s biggest stars in Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel and Rooney Mara. I can’t complain that it won, it’s a beautiful and gut-wrenching story, but at the same time, Ali’s Wedding represents a fresh breath of air for Australian storytelling and the depiction of our culture on screen. Yes, it may just be a simple love story on the surface, but it has so many little charms and quirks that make it genuinely funny and interesting to watch. It would have been a very deserving winner.

Best Direction
Winner: Lion (Garth Davis)
Who Should Have Won: Hounds of Love (Ben Young)

Although I enjoyed the emotional journey Garth Davis took us upon in Lion, I can’t help but feel that Ben Young’s skills should have been recognised here, and not just because his film Hounds of Love was filmed in WA. Most of his film takes place within the walls of a small home and focuses on the relationship between two emotionally twisted and disturbed serial killers. Young shows great restraint throughout the film, tending to let your imagination take over, rather than simply showing a lot of graphic violence. He creates a lot of tension and directs some skillful, emotional performances from his leads all on a very small budget. I’m looking forward to seeing him take on bigger projects in the future.

Best Lead Actor
Winner: Sunny Pawar (Lion)
Who Should Have Won: Sunny Pawar (Lion)

Cuteness will always reign supreme. 9-year-old Sunny Pawar took out the Best Lead actor category and I agree wholeheartedly with this choice. Let’s hope this child protégé continues his acting success as an adult.

Best Lead Actress
Winner: Emma Booth (Hounds of Love)
Who Should Have Won: Emma Booth (Hounds of Love)

Without Emma Booth’s powerhouse performance, Hounds of Love would not have been anywhere near as enjoyable. Booth brought an emotional delicacy to her serial killer role that encouraged sympathy towards her, despite her horrendous pursuits. Ever since her days on TV’s Underbelly she’s proven herself to be a fantastic actress, and I’m glad she’s getting recognition for her work on the big screen.

Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Dev Patel (Lion)
Who Should Have Won: Dev Patel (Lion)

Much like Emma Booth’s strong example in Hounds of Love, Dev Patel has such a powerful and resonating performance in Lion that without him, I doubt the film could have reached the same strong ending. Together, him and Sunny Pawar made a fine team on their emotional journey to find their way home. Patel has gone from strength to strength ever since his lead performance in Slumdog Millionaire

Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Who Should Have Won: Nicole Kidman (Lion)

The Lion train continues, and the fine performances on offer in this film should make everyone jump on board. Lion is a prime example of what happens when you put together a cast of A-list Hollywood actors and everything clicks. Nicole Kidman plays the mother who adopts a young Indian refugee, and her wisdom as an experienced actor brings an emotional connection to the film that would not have been anywhere near as strong without her.

 

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment 

Movie Review – Swinging Safari

Outrageously crude, Swinging Safari is an insane look at Australia in the 70’s.

⭐ ⭐
Michael Philp 

It says a lot that Swinging Safari feels the need to excuse itself. The opening narration by Richard Roxburgh recalls that the 70’s were a time without political correctness or helicopter parenting. If anything depicted offends you, deal with it because it’s a true story. In other words, Safari knows that it’ll be controversial, but tries to sidestep that criticism with “it was the 70’s”. If you accept that excuse, you’ll have a grand old time, but if you think that isn’t good enough to justify some truly horrific decisions, steer well clear.

Safari is ostensibly about 14-year-old Jeff Marsh (Atticus Robb) coming of age in mid-70’s Australia. Jeff is a budding filmmaker and loves using his super eight camera to capture his mates doing death-defying stunts. He’s also in love with Melly (Darcey Wilson), a young girl suffering from anxiety and depression. Together, Melly and Jeff form Safari’s emotional core as they deal with absentee parents and the manic energy of their suburban cul-de-sac. Their parents, meanwhile, function as the film’s comedic core, letting loose at key parties and outrageously feuding between themselves – prawns in hubcaps, tampering with tan creams, that kind of thing.

To the film’s credit, Safari can be quite funny. There’s no denying that when writer/director Stephan Elliott aims for satirical nostalgia, he hits the nail on the head. His beach scenes in particular – all KFC, cask wine, and sunburn – are excellent vehicles for this. The fact that he’s aiming to be honest about the era helps here because it gives everything a gonzo vibe – fast, authentic, and wild.

Unfortunately, the well frequently gets poisoned by Elliott’s attempts to depict the deeper issues of his generation. It isn’t enough to joke about K-tel products, Safari also wants you to laugh at the grimier aspects of the 70’s, like alcoholism and depression. In portraying these problems, Elliott creates tonal issues that he doesn’t have the skill to navigate.

Melly is the most egregious example of this. She has mental health issues – she’s never hungry and is often separate from the other children because she’s openly depressed. The film treats this issue with all the grace of a beached whale because that’s how the era treated it. People punish and bully Melly for her problems, but Elliott doesn’t do anything to denounce that because “it was the 70’s, deal with it.” It’s horrible to watch, even more so when it’s played against the aforementioned nostalgic tone.

Ultimately, Safari’s biggest problems boil down to Elliott ignoring basic screenwriting rules to get a more accurate depiction of the era (Safari doesn’t have a real plot because the 70’s were a plotless generation). That’s not entirely a bad thing, since it allows for a frenetic pace that some will enjoy, but it also makes the film harder to follow, and a lot of the emotional beats don’t get the care they deserve. If a frenzied and crudely funny take on 70’s Australia sounds like a good night out to you, you’ll love what Swinging Safari offers. Just remember that you’ll have to stomach the worst tendencies of the era as well.

Swinging Safari is available in Australian cinemas from January 18 

Image courtesy of Becker Film Group 

Movie Review – Three Summers

Three Summers is determined to bring a sunny disposition to the thorniest of political topics.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Michael Philp

Let’s get this out of the way quick-smart: for some people, Three Summers will not be an easy film. It should be – it’s a comedy, after all – but it’s also an unreservedly left-wing perspective on Australia that will rub certain people up the wrong way. It wears its politics on its sleeve in almost every scene, and you’ll either laugh along with it or get frustrated when it (regularly) dismisses conservative opinions. In other words, it’s a Ben Elton film.

Written and directed by Elton, Three Summers is a film about Australia and its stories. Accordingly, it follows a variety of groups at the fictional Westival music festival. There’s the feisty Warrikins (Rebecca Breeds, John Waters); Roland the Theremin player (Robert Sheehan); the Morris dancers led by Michael Caton; Queenie the relentlessly sunny radio announcer (Magda Szubanski); and about half a dozen other plotlines, all converging on the same campgrounds over three years.

It’s impressive just how well Elton manages to juggle it all. Considering the number of ideas he’s throwing around, it would’ve been easy for the film to descend into a preachy soup. Instead, thanks to the extended timespan, there’s always a fresh joke around the corner. Revisiting these characters over multiple years affords us the chance to watch them grow and adjust naturally. A punk band dwindles, an AA meeting grows, and certain events challenge the community dynamic in surprising ways. Through it all, a warmly empathetic optimism brings the disparate groups together.

That optimism is what ultimately ties the film together. Elton himself has made it clear that he wanted to make a nice film – something lovely and warm – and that ethos shines through. Even when the film is confronting Australia’s thorniest conversations – the refugee crisis, Aboriginal marginalisation – it remains upbeat and acknowledges them as decipherable problems. They aren’t just rocks and hard places, they are people, and people deserve love and respect.

With so many stories it’s also inevitable that some of them won’t get the time they deserve. Aboriginal marginalisation, for instance, is a complex topic that is ill-suited to a comedy that can’t focus on it. One of the children wears an ankle-monitor which is played for a single laugh but never properly addressed. That’s practically the definition of lip-service, and it’s not the only instance of it. Elton is sincere in his desire to confront difficult issues, and his attempts are at least commendable, but the problems are also much bigger than he can manage in an already busy film.

Conservatives will bristle, but lefties will laugh at the shenanigans in Three Summers. It’s not a perfect film – Elton would do well to narrow his scope next time – but it’s genuine where it counts. It’s a kind-hearted comedy with some wonderful performances (Szubanski is just lovely) and a gorgeously Australian setting. It’s the perfect film for an outdoor screening on a warm summer’s eve so expect it to remain a mainstay of those events for years to come.

 

Three Summers is available in Australian cinemas from November 2.

Image courtesy of Transmission Films 2017

 

Movie Review – Killing Ground

Damien Power’s maiden voyage is often smooth and gripping, but lacks the on-board facilities to truly dazzle.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

About midway through Killing Ground, the debut feature from Damien Power, we realise we’ve been taken for a ride. Here is a dark, bloody, disturbing picture, told out of order, about two scumbag weirdos who skulk around the woods of the Australian outback terrorising innocent campers. Why? Because they can, I suppose. If Mr. Power believes humans harbour within an inherent taste for senseless evil, his two villains here should be studied as specimens. I’m inclined to think otherwise, which makes Killing Ground a bit baseless.

I love a good thriller, and this is a confident and well-made one. But I need to make sense of the violence that happens within. Killing Ground can trace its ancestry directly to Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), one of the cruellest and most eerie of films, but what it’s missing is the insanity of Chainsaw’s mayhem. That was a movie about a cannibalistic family in the middle of nowhere, driven mad by each other and the stench of death. The baddies in Killing Ground are neither cannibals nor insane. They are simply despicable, which might be the point, but Power doesn’t put a big enough stamp on it.

The plot traces three stories: one of Ian (Ian Meadows) and Sam (Harriet Dyer), a chemistry-free lovey-dovey couple set to see in the new year in a tent; the family of Margaret (Maya Stange), Rob (Julian Garner), Em (Tiarnie Coupland) and little Ollie; and the two psychos, German (Aaron Pedersen) and Chook (Aaron Glenane). The structure of the narrative sets the scene, and as it unfolds, pieces come together and some questions (not enough) are answered.

The film cedes its promising beginnings when it eventually becomes linear and turns into a run-of-the-mill slasher thriller in which the crazy bad guys pillage, rape, plunder and otherwise make camping very inconvenient for the enamoured couple. There is a shootout, a stand-off, a hostage crisis, some chases (both on foot and on wheels) and a very strange open-ended resolution that hints at a future more uncertain than the present.

And yet Killing Ground is a film with potential. It engendered uneasy feelings in me, but it lacks that ultimate spark of genius to make me think twice about my next camping trip. Both Pedersen and Glenane are convincing as menacing cavemen, and they share a few scenes in which they openly fret over the dangers of getting caught. But if they were truly mad, if they really believed in what they were doing, they would have flaunted their trophies for the world to see instead of making theirs a clandestine hobby. It would have upped the stakes because they’d have nothing to lose. And I would have been completely sold.

Killing Ground is available in Australian cinemas from August 24 

Image courtesy of Mushroom Pictures 

 

Interview: Rob Livings – Two People

Thomas Munday 

Two People has, in every sense of the term, something for everyone. A twenty-something girl (Liberty Hills) takes some time out from domesticity to wander bars and comedy stores in Northbridge alone. She strikes up a conversation with a comedian (Nick Pages-Oliver) and after missing the last train home, the two begin an elongated conversation throughout the middle of the night.

Director, editor and co-writer Rob Livings peaks into the average twenty-something’s mind in this low-budget, walking-and-talking feature that was shot over four nights in the Perth CBD and Northbridge. Filmed in black and white, Livings and co’s latest utilises the budget, gear and location at their disposal to a desired effect.

Livings chatted with Hooked on Film about his cast, production challenges and how one night can change our lives.

TM: How did you conceive of the idea for the film?

RL: With Two People, I don’t think it was ever intended to be what it became, we were just like ‘let’s try and make a feature for nothing and we’ll just do it overnight, a couple of nights a week and figure it out as we go and do it in an improvised fashion’. We just held a little meeting about it, everyone was keen and then it just went from there. So, it was very much – ‘Let’s get together, shoot it chronologically and see what happens’.

It’s a very simple idea but it was a matter of whether we could pull it off the way we wanted to, we were like: ‘Let’s shoot it multi-cam, let’s treat it so when we’re editing it’s just dumping in a timeline’. There’s so many ways to move quickly in production, but there is not many ways to make a film quickly in post-production, so let’s try and find a way to find an answer for both of those.

TM: How was it to go from shorter-form projects to feature filmmaking?

RL: Switching to feature film was good, but it was just more targeting a new way of making a movie, so fully improvising the dialogue, going against what you learn in film school – basically, taking what you’ve learned from a technical aspect and throwing away everything else and building over. It was really fun and exciting to do something different, – shooting at night when no one is around. It was like Northbridge became this canvas we could do whatever we wanted with.

TM: A lot of the movie feels realistic, how much was scripted before filming and how much was improvised on set?

RL: Every bit of dialogue is improvised, we knew we had a start and we had an ending. We knew where we were going to be shooting because we had access to certain places. The film was set around who we knew and what we had and that’s kind of the point when you’re working for no money, you’ve just got to make the most of what you’ve got.

This film was very much a ‘make it up as you go’, but just let’s get to that ending and let’s get to the finish line however we need to. If things were steering in one direction we’d make sure they went back the other way. I’d say 90% of it happened whilst we were filming and the 10% was planned so it was very, very loose and I was just happy to see where it took us.

TM: How does Perth stand out as a good movie setting?

RL: I love Perth and like everyone in Perth. People have complained about the quiet nature of Perth many times. I think Perth works really well, I would encourage people to shoot at night here because there is literally no one around so you can kind of just create this world if you go to the right spots. For me, in this film they seem like they are alone and on their own, even within the bar there is a couple of people there. That whole quiet nature of Perth really works to people’s benefit, so you don’t have to deal with sound issues or the issues that you might have in a busy city like Sydney or Melbourne.

TM: This movie relies entirely on interaction, why is human behaviour so pertinent to drama, comedy and cinema in general?

RL: I think you can be your own character, anyone can reference with it. The characters in this film are so realistic and so down to Earth. I know that’s something that might push some people away, they might not want to relate to real life; they might want to go in there and watch something that takes them out of what is going on, but it is interesting to see people in this vulnerable state where they are willing to kind of open up. Well, at least, Liberty’s character was vulnerable whereas Nick’s was a bit more guarded. That’s just two different types of people and when you put them together it’s an interesting situation.

Image courtesy of Rob Livings 

Top Knot Detective – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Riotously funny, Top Knot Detective is what happens when you watch too much late-night SBS.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Michael Philp 

It’s hard to describe Top Knot Detective to the uninitiated. Its list of influences includes Power Rangers, midnight SBS insanity and legendarily bad films like The Room. Imagine a mockumentary retrospective on Kung Fury, and you’ll have some grasp of what you’re in for. If those things don’t float your boat, the exit is to your right. For everyone else, Top Knot Detective is brilliant and it deserves to be on your must-see list.

Top Knot details the rise and fall of fictional 90’s Japanese TV show Ronin Suiri Tentai (Deductive Reasoning Ronin), zeroing in on the show’s creator/director/star/writer Takashi Tawagoto (Toshi Okuzaki), who is described as “Errol Flynn without the STD’s or the talent”. Through interviews with his co-stars and the show’s crew, the film builds a fascinating and hilarious portrait of a young man swept up in the creative process.

There are so many things to love about Top Knot. The number of jokes per minute is phenomenal, and just about each one lands perfectly. On top of that, the level of care on display is remarkable. From the acting to the background details, everything around the show is on-point. Even the tie-in advertisements and archive photos feel beautifully real, and you’ll often forget that everything you’re seeing has come directly from the minds of directors Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce. Top Knot Detective isn’t just a send-up of cheap, over the top Japanese cinema, it’s McCann and Pearce’s love letter to the genre. Theirs is a world of giant penis monsters, talk shows with cats, and gloriously ridiculous (and ridiculously gory) action scenes. If that sentence interests you, Top Knot Detective cannot be recommended enough.

Top Knot Detective is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July)

Image courtesy of Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) and Revelation Film Festival 

Descent into the Maelstrom – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Descent into the Malestrom is a high energy journey into the success, and failings, of 70’s Aussie rock’n’roll band Radio Birdman.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill 

In 1974 in Sydney, a young American man named Deniz Tek formed the band Radio Birdman with Rob Younger. Following the recruitment of four other members, Radio Birdman went on to cause a stir in the Australian music scene, with their unconventional take on rock’n’roll and their determination to stay true to their original brand of music. Whilst the band had a short run of success, with the members of the band choosing to part ways in 1978, they became the influence for many mainstream Australian bands.

The genius of Descent into the Maelstrom lies in director Jonathan Sequeira’s complete understanding of the band. There are so many elements at play that are carefully hidden behind the guise of a historical documentary as Sequeira explores the band’s rise to fame. But this documentary offers so much more, and much like the music of Radio Birdman, it refuses to stick to traditional documentary conventions.

The first half of the documentary is littered with wild tales as retold by the band members, now well into their 60’s, and discusses their struggle to be taken seriously in the music scene. There is an incredible archive of footage and photos from Radio Birdman’s performances, which makes up the majority of the visual content for the documentary, but it’s the clever use of storyboard animations that help to fill the gaps in the footage that adds a little extra something, and makes the documentary slightly unusual.

The second half of the documentary takes on a quiet, reflective state as the band are picked up by a label and begin touring internationally in 1977. The more they tour, the more the cracks in the group become irreparable, and this is supported with a definite change in mood in the present-day interviews as the band members become more solemn and disgruntled about how Radio Birdman ended.

Descent into the Maelstrom does well in immersing the audience into this world of rock’n’roll, but there’s also a certain amount of assumed knowledge that is expected of the audience. Knowledge of the state of the Australian music scene at this time is helpful, as well as knowing a bit about the punk scene, both on an international scale, and on a more local, Australian scale. There’s a lot of reminiscing about forgotten bands and pubs that no longer exist, which can leave you missing the significance of these details if you’re just that bit too young.

Descent into the Maelstrom, much like Radio Birdman’s music and band ethos, is raw, gritty and unorthodox, but it’s the honest portrayal of the highs and lows of Radio Birdman’s short rise to fame, and subsequent conflict within the band, that makes this documentary so interesting.

Descent into the Maelstrom is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July)

Image courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment & Revelation Film Festival

Watch The Sunset – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Watch the Sunset is a remarkable achievement that maintains a gripping momentum… almost until the end.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Michael Philp

The one-take genre of drama is small; its most oft-cited works being Victoria and Russian Ark. It’s a format that lends itself to intense realism, but is also hampered by logistical constraints. Watch the Sunset, filmed over the course of an afternoon in Kerang, Victoria, delivers the former in spades, but fails to overcome the trappings of its genre.

The film opens with a brief montage of documentary footage on the drug ice, giving context to the film’s first scene: a man, Danny (Tristan Barr), driving a devastated young woman, Charis (Zia Zantis-Vinycomb) to a motel and locking her in a room. From here, Danny abandons her to attempt to reconnect with his ex-wife and daughter. For good reasons, the former doesn’t want a bar of him, and her reservations are proven legitimate when things take a turn for the worst.

For the vast majority of the film, the camera sticks to Danny like a small child, allowing the audience a stomach-churning view of the proceedings. There is a remarkable level of authenticity on display: every actor nails the realism and depth necessary to breathe life into the single take, and the camera is there at every step to unflinchingly capture their performances. Better still, it manages to pull off the impressionistic angle just as well, with several clever uses of reflection elevating Damien E. Lipp’s cinematography.

Sadly, the film goes off the rails near the end. A brief monologue on “what separates us from the animals” comes off as egregiously empty philosophising, and the film never recovers enough to deliver the rousing finale you want. If this were a normal film, the editing bay might have caught that and cut the scene down, but the single-take genre allows no such leeway.

Watch the Sunset is a powerful film: its performances are devastatingly real, and its achievements are awe-inspiring. Every member of the crew deserves commendation; they have pulled off one of cinema’s most daring feats with aplomb, producing a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat almost until the very end.

Watch the Sunset is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July) 

Image courtesy of BarrLipp Productions and Revelation Film Festival 

Movie Review – Hotel Coolgardie

Between Perth and Kalgoorlie lurks a remote location that appears devoid of humanity; the outskirts of civilisation in Western Australia may be more formidable than we think.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

Every three months, the Denver City Hotel in Coolgardie – a stopover country town frequented by miners and industrial workers to and from Kalgoorlie – hires new barmaids (or “fresh meat”) to serve the patrons of its bar. Two Finnish backpackers in their mid-twenties, Lina and Stephie, are the Hotel’s latest additions. Having been robbed on a vacation in Bali, they need jobs fast, and are sent by a Perth recruitment agency to this town far from civilisation. Little do they know that the next few months will become hell for these girls, as they find themselves the subject of farcical levels of abuse, objectification and harassment from their employers, the locals and the pub’s many visitors.

Every now and then, a documentary comes along that makes you truly wonder whether or not everyone involved was actually in on it and if it was all staged. Surely anyone would want to make themselves look better if they knew their words and actions were being caught on camera, right? Raw & Cooked Media’s Hotel Coolgardie is one of those rare films that manages to perfectly create a fly-on-the-wall feeling, almost as if there is no film crew present and we’re simply watching reality unfold before our eyes. In a volatile situation like this in particular, it must have taken a great deal of restraint for director Pete Gleeson and his team to not interfere and get involved with the (often traumatic) conflict going on at this hotel.

‘Responsible drinking’ seems to be a naff concept in this place; from their very first night on the job, Lina and Stephie are barked orders from their boss Pete as he drowns himself in alcohol alongside the rest of the bar’s patrons. The girls, given essentially no training, struggle to keep up with the constant orders, counting cash and pouring drinks while they are sworn at, insulted and humiliated by the drunken crowd surrounding them.

It only gets worse from here. They’re frequently advanced upon in shockingly crass ways by countless men, given misguided gifts from older blokes whose fancy they’ve taken, urged into arguments by drunks who are a little too open about their life problems, and even find themselves forcing people out of their rooms who have wandered in without invitation. They’re made to endure a camping trip that results in serious health ramifications and professional embarrassment. The girls remain good natured and deal with their situation well, despite how increasingly uncomfortable things become throughout their stay.

It’d be too streamlined to take this all as a deconstruction of “fragile masculinity”, especially considering that some of the residents that belittle and criticise the girls for their looks, physique and demeanour are women. This is more of a look at the way of life in these desolate places far from what we would perceive as a normal, sophisticated way of life. These people live their lonely lives on the road, only ever interacting with a small circle of other human beings and doing what they need to just to get by. Despite how unpleasant they can be, it’s difficult to not feel a little sorry for some of them, clearly so desperate for human interaction they’ll go about it the only way they know how (despite how awful that may seem to us).

Most amazing is how natural everyone seems to be, seemingly uncaring (or unaware) of what image they’ve made of themselves to appear on screen. It’s an incredible feat Raw & Cooked have accomplished in giving us an organic and exposed observation of everyday life just a few hundred kilometres away; it’s an incredible, if somewhat sinister, experience.

Hotel Coolgardie is available in Australian cinemas from June 15

Image courtesy of Raw & Cooked Media