Saltburn is a thrilling and unpredictable showcase of how wealth affects everybody and the lengths to which some will go to fit in somewhere they’ve never belonged. Dissecting the worlds of the wealthy and those less fortunate, this film doesn’t regard anyone as inherently good or bad and it really allows for the story to inform some of those titles. Playing with audience expectations, the film also delves into the mechanics of friendships and studies the ways in which we as people go about trying to surround ourselves with new people. The world is cruel and so are people, but we can never truly be sure of something until we observe it up close.
Oliver (Barry Keoghan) is attending Oxford University on an academic scholarship and comes from a troubled home. He makes few friends at university to start but finds himself completely enamored with Felix (Jacob Elordi), the most popular boy at school and certainly the most attractive as well. When the two meet by chance, Felix takes Oliver under his wing and eventually invites him to his family’s estate for the Summer. Upon arriving at Saltburn, Oliver realizes that his life will never be the same once he’s been shown how the other half live.
Emerald Fennell follows up her terrific debut in Promising Young Woman with another film that studies the consequences of our actions and just how far people would go to feel like they belong. With sharp writing and a terrific pair of leads, Fennell effortlessly blends multiple genres of filmmaking in her sophomoric outing. Equal parts a story of love and lust, Saltburn is incredibly unique in its style and a testament to the power of the leading performers. At every turn the actors elevate this already biting script into something truly magnificent.
Barry Keoghan continues his trend of playing complicated characters, bringing a gentleness to the role of Oliver which really helps the audience piece together some of his upbringing. Watching him struggle to find a place for himself at school is tough and he does such a beautiful job of emphasizing how loneliness and longing can weigh on your soul. Keoghan also channels some Call Me By Your Name in the way he looks at and pines for Felix. It’s complicated in the sense that even he is unsure of these intense feelings he has towards Felix, but he can’t deny that there’s an unmistakable magnetism that draws him closer.
Jacob Elordi truly shines in a role that on the surface feels like something he’s played before, but underneath his cool demeanor is a guy who feels like people only like him for his status. There’s this complicated look at wealth and the wealthy, as it’s easy to assume Felix has the greatest life at home and abroad because he has his wealth to keep him afloat. However, we see a longing in Felix as well for a genuine connection and someone who appreciates him for who he is, not what he has. He plays wonderfully off Keoghan’s more reserved performance, crafting a lovely friendship and showing protection for him.
Saltburn becomes on of the more outrageous films you’ll see as it progresses deeper into the story, throwing caution to the wind and putting debauchery on full display. One we reach the eponymous Saltburn estate and fully embed ourselves with Felix’s family, there’s no turning back from the trappings of wealth and power. From top to bottom Saltburn is exceptional on every level and lingers in your mind long after the film finally ends. I was not prepared for what I saw and how I would feel, but I think it’s best that most go in cold to this film. This easily ranks among the best of what I’ve seen this year and is a testament to true craftsmanship from the performances to the assured writing and directing from Fennell.
Listen to the full audio review below on our podcast page, or through any of the following platforms!