Movie Review // Saltburn
Movie Review // Saltburn

Movie Review // Saltburn

I saw Saltburn a few weeks ago and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it so I decided to go back and watch it again so I could write a review. Directed and written by Emerald Fennell of Promising Young Woman fame, this film apart from anything else that was released in 2023. It tells the story of a young Oxford University student who gets invited to spend the Summer at the titular estate with one of his wealthy, popular classmates where he is drawn into the family’s eccentric world. It is a scathing examination of wealth and class and the twisted nature of obsession. Many young folks on Tik Tok are expressing shock about this film and saying it’s one of the most extreme depictions of obsession that they have ever seen. Growing up on the internet as a Millennial with Rotten.com, Faces of Death, 2 Girls 1 Cup, I’ve certainly seen much more extreme content. But before I shake my fist at the sky and mock the ‘youts’ for their wide-eyed innocence, I must admit, this film truly is unlike anything we’ve seen made in a while. It’s delightfully weird. It has a way of wedging itself into the recesses of my brain and popping up at the strangest times. It was meant to be memed.

When Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) arrives at Saltburn with his schoolmate, Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi) he initially seems out of his depth in the wealthy household. He makes a gaff ordering eggs at breakfast, which the staff and Felix’s family seems to respond to with derision and judgment. But Oliver quickly finds his footing, making allies in the household and manipulating family members so that they turn against one another. He navigates the world of high society with an ease until his secrets threaten to spill out and ruin his chances at happiness. His motivations remain unclear until the very end. The story is a bit reminiscent of The Talented Mr. Ripley, but with more bathtub water drinking and grave desecration.

Emerald Fennell has been nominated for some awards for this film including Best Woman Director and Best Woman Screenwriter at the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, Best Picture at the Critic’s Choice Movie Awards, and Outstanding British Film at the British Academy Film Awards. All well deserved. She won for Filmmaker of the Year at the Mill Valley Film Festival. The set design and cinematography in this film were unforgettable and the soundtrack was wonderful. The film was set in 2006 and all the music was period appropriate. Of course, The Killer’s ubiquitous Mr. Brightside made an appearance. The song that has everyone buzzing was from the end of the film is Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s 2001 song “Murder on the Dance Floor.” The bop has experienced a resurgence in popular culture since the film’s release and can be found across social media.

All the acting in this film is excellent. Keoghan is a magnetic character and has the audience rooting for him no matter how depraved his actions. Elordi portrays the elite Felix with finesse. Rosamund Pike plays the matriarch of the family and does so with a wit and an edge that is brilliant. Richard E Grant portrays the father in the film and does so with his characteristic razor-sharp sense of humor. Paul Rhys deserves accolades for his turn as the butler, Duncan, who is at once subservient and scathing.

With its quirky story, extravagant visuals, killer soundtrack, and enigmatic lead actor, I suspect that Saltburn will remain in the popular consciousness for some time. Do yourself a favor and search Tik Tok for “Saltburn reactions” where people are recording the reactions their families have when they convince them to sit down and watch the film.
I do know that I’m now going to have to go and watch the other works by Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman, here I come!

 

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