Saltburn Review: A Psychotic Fever Dream ★★★★
Saltburn It is a psychological thriller film released in 2023, directed by acclaimed director Emerald Fennell, who is best known for her film. Promising youth woman. The film stars Barry Keoghan as the main character Oliver, and explores themes such as obsession, greed and lust.
Let me preface by saying that whatever you think Saltburn It would be, it’s not. I thought the film would bear similarities to films like Call me by your name, mistakenly believing that the film is romantic. it’s not like that.
Aesthetically, there are similarities between the two – particularly in the scenes filmed on the Saltburn estate, partly due to the summer heat as well as the costumes worn by the characters. Other than that, there isn’t a single moment in the film that the viewer can easily predict, in fact it’s so highly unpredictable that halfway through the film my jaw was dropping, and my eyebrows were furrowing.
Keoghan’s performance is thrilling and, above all, should be credited for his ability to make Oliver perhaps the most disturbing character in modern cinema. He seems ordinary at the beginning of the film, but time soon reveals the deeper, darker depths of his personality. The shock of some scenes makes your stomach turn and your mouth drop open, it’s really hard to watch.
Oliver is a first year at Oxford University, coming from the northern city of Prescott, and cannot rely on his trust fund like other students. He struggles to make friends at first and takes on the role of outcast. That is, of course, until he meets the handsome, popular, and most importantly, wealthy Felix, who invites Oliver to spend the summer at his family’s home (chateau) in the countryside.
Australian actor Jacob Elordi plays the attractive Felix, who is immediately positioned as an object of lust and desire. The film begins with a montage of shots from Oliver’s point of view, and throughout the film we often only see him through these point of view shots. This means that we view him in the same way as Oliver, which is key in shaping the audience’s reactions to the characters on screen.
Despite the somewhat sinister undertones and some very uncomfortable scenes, the film is also very comedic. Although not many people in the cinema laughed with me, I could appreciate Fennell’s straightforward approach to humor throughout the film. It’s fairly dry but its timing is perfect and allows us to get to know the characters’ personalities.
In many ways, the movie was great. The beautiful cinematography coupled with the script and the acting abilities of the actors makes it a lot of fun to watch. It also helps distract the audience from the hints that lead to what might otherwise be fairly predictable plot turns, making it more effective.
That’s not to say the film was flawless. In many ways, it can be considered more technically accurate than Fennell’s first film Promising young womanwhich has already shown great promise in the director’s career.
However, there are moments in the film that seem meaningless. It makes the movie seem much longer, creating distance between viewers and the movie. After such a long lead-up to the plot reveal, the ending feels rushed, and I can’t help but think that Fennell focused too much on irrelevant points and spared no time for those that would enhance the ending.
Additionally, for a film that focuses on the behaviors and roles of wealthy members of society, Saltburn fails to offer any form of clear critique of it.
The Catons are in many ways undesirable and abusive with their power, creating a very strange dynamic between them and other minor characters like Farleigh (Archie Medekwe), who is their nephew.
However, this is undermined by other scenes where Oliver’s apparent worship of family takes over the audience, making them yearn to be a part of it. Any criticism of class and elites is thus weak and insincere, which makes me wonder if that was Fennell’s intention at all.
despite this, Saltburn All in all it was a very enjoyable watch, creating an extremely rare feeling of disgust, awe and shock. It’s probably best to watch the movie with as little prior knowledge as possible. With the wonderful performances of all the actors, Saltburn It is a film that will either keep you on the edge of your seat or turn away from the screen during scenes that are difficult to watch.
Featured image credit: MGM Amazon Studios