Film Review – Hotel Coolgardie (2016)

Title – Hotel Coolgardie (2016)

Director – Pete Gleeson (feature debut)

Cast – Lina, Stephie, The Canman, Pikey

Plot – A documentary following Finish backpackers Lina and Stephie as they take up barmaid positions in the small Western Australian mining town of Coolgardie.

“I think this town has a bit of sadness to it”

Review by Eddie on 18/12/2017

It’s safe to say that Hotel Coolgardie won’t be being used by Tourism Australian anytime soon to help drive backpackers and tourists to our undeniable beautiful, yet sometimes harsh and almost medieval like landscape filled with both the very best and some of the very poorest of human behaviours.

Like an updated real-life version of Ted Kotcheff’s 1971 Australian based cult-classic Wake in Fright, Pete Gleeson’s documentary, that follows a few months in the lives of Finnish backpackers Lina and Stephie as they try to earn money and experience Australia as barmaids in the small Western Australian mining centric town of Coolgardie is a raw, insightful and painstakingly honest portrayal of the oft-unspoken drinking culture at the heart of many Australian communities and the casual sexism, racism and arrogance that comes along with it.

For those that view the Australian culture through rose-tinted glasses, Hotel Coolgardie will be a real shock to the system.

Gleeson’s camera never flinches as Lina and Stephie experience a range of confronting and often hard to watch scenes. From drunk patrons talking to them about deeply personal and utterly wrong ruminations of why they can’t find the right woman, through to abusive and highly offensive comments made to them by their employer, Hotel Coolgardie shows things how it is making it an effective and in many ways important showcase for the underbelly of our great yet sometimes sadly disappointing country and those that call themselves true Australians.

It’s not all doom and gloom here however as Gleeson’s documentary still shines a light on much of the good that makes Australia such a desired destination.

From the friendly patron of the girls pub known as the Canman though to Stephie friendship with a kind-hearted yet troubled local, Hotel Coolgardie reminds us all that underneath some of the rough and tough exterior lies some genuine care, affection and spirit that is sometimes sadly squashed by a harsh exterior, built up over time to combat the very nature of a town and its citizens of a community such as Coolgardie.

Final Say –

While the film would’ve benefited greatly from Lina and Stephie being more purely likeable central figures and for us to know more about their situations and road to this point in their lives, Hotel Coolgardie is an often fascinating look into a taboo subject matter and an under-examined aspect of core Australian traditions and lifestyle.

3 ½ camping trips out of 5  

Hotel Coolgardie is available for rent/purchase now on all good streaming platforms

For more information, visit the film’s official website at –

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