Hotel Sorrento is a reflective and thoughtful rumination on Australian culture and identity. Fabulous local filmmaker Richard Franklin - one of our finest screen scaremongers - went way, way against type adapting Hannie Rayson’s well-loved play about a family forced to confront their demons and inhibitions after one of its members writes a “fictional” book about their lives.
One of the film’s many fleeting reflections is an exploration of the word “melancholy” - a word that perfectly suits Hotel Sorrento’s tone and pace.
Horror and thriller artists often understand precisely how to solicit specific emotive responses from audiences - Hitchcock’s famous allegory of cinema as a set of strings for a puppeteer summarizes exactly this notion - and Franklin does a fine job molding the film’s mood into something pensive but probing and expressive, matching an unobtrusive visual structure to the film’s vociferous theatrical rambles.
The (mostly female) cast are uniformly strong, and you never for a moment doubt the significance of the memories and grievances that rub over these character’s lives, causing friction and conflict between them.
Neither the film nor the play offer conclusive, rosy futures for their characters, but rather hints towards the redeeming powers of reconciliation.