Universal Pictures and Warner Bros present Saltburn; the latest feature from Writer/Director and Academy Award winner Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman). After receiving critical acclaim from film festivals all around the globe, Saltburn is hoping to shock audiences with its gothic thrills and twisted chills.
Set against the backdrop of the mid-2000s, Saltburn tells the tale of Oliver (Barry Keoghan), an awkward first-year Oxford student desperate to connect with his peers. After he befriends an aristocratic classmate called Felix (Jacob Elordi), they spend the summer together at Felix’s sprawling estate, along with Felix’s eccentric family. As Oliver spends more and more time becoming accustomed to Felix’s enviable way of living, his infatuation towards his new friend’s lavish lifestyle blooms into a somewhat sinister obsession.
When I was lucky enough to receive the invite to the press screening for Saltburn, I jumped at the chance. Even with no prior knowledge of the premise of the film (or even the cast), the promise of Emerald Fennell writing and directing was enough for me. 2020’s Promising Young Woman was one of my favourite films of that year. The twists in that film stayed with me for days afterwards. If Saltburn is even half the film that Promising Young Woman is, I knew I’d be a fan.
Saltburn isn’t just a masterclass in acting and writing, but it’s also one of the most aesthetically gorgeous films in recent memory. The stylistic choices made in the film feel so purposeful that it elevates it to new heights. From the moment the film starts till the moment it ends there were countless frames that could have been plucked straight from the screen and framed as art. With Saltburn, Fennell has seriously levelled up as an auteur director and it’s on full show here.
This review will be hard to express, as the less that’s said about Saltburn the better. It’s one of those films that is best experienced with little to no prior knowledge of the premise or events that take place within it. There’s so many twists and turns throughout that are incredibly well written that makes this movie unlike anything else I’ve experienced. If I had to make a comparison, I guess I would say 2022’s The Menu, or even 2019’s Parasite.
This film’s strongest attribute is its award worthy performances, which it’s brimming with. The story’s protagonist, Oliver Quick, is a class above the rest. Keoghan is so engaging as the awkward and quirky friend of Felix Catton that you can’t look away, no matter what you’re viewing on the screen. His performance is something that needs to be seen to be believed. An honourable mention goes to Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) as Elsbeth Catton, who balanced the darker moments with impeccable comedic timing and laugh-out-loud quips. Her pivotal addition to this film didn’t go unnoticed.
This movie wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good without Fennell’s writing prowess and ability to direct this film in such an engaging way. This motley crew of characters she’s invented all bring a unique quality that distinguishes them from each other and helped to keep me engaged throughout its 131 minute runtime. This intoxicating story led to the film’s climax which was so engrossing that me and my partner were on the edge of our seats.
The balance of dark comedy and satirical horror makes it an easy recommendation for audiences who enjoy the more unnerving side of cinema. Word to the wise though, I wouldn’t eat during the movie as you may not be able to keep it down.
Saltburn is another triumph for Emerald Fennell and a unique take on the psychological thriller genre. Though it won’t be for everyone, it was a delight to watch and a movie I won’t forget about anytime soon.