Saltburn, which released in theaters this past November, shocked audiences and critics alike. The latest from director Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), the film is a sexually charged psychological thriller. Saltburn explores themes such as power, wealth, and greed, and is certainly not for the faint of heart.
The movie starts like any good gothic novel. A period piece taking place in 2007, poor and lonely Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) begins his first semester at Oxford University. He befriends Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), Oxford’s most popular, after helping him out with a flat tire on his bike. The two become fast friends, and after tragedy befalls Oliver, Felix invites him to stay at his home in the country for the summer: Saltburn. But, as with any gothic thriller, things are never as they seem. Thus begins a wickedly twisted tale, characterized by wealth, greed, sexuality, and power.
The main character and the shining star of Saltburn is Ireland’s own Barry Keoghan. He plays a meek, bitterly intelligent man with more than meets the eye. As the film goes on, his motivations become clearer; the character you thought you knew transforms in front of your very eyes into something much more sinister. It gets harder and harder to root for Keoghan as the film goes on, but you find yourself wanting him to win anyways. Keoghan’s performance has garnered vast critical acclaim, earning him a Golden Globe nomination; perhaps there’s an Oscar nomination in his future?
Beisdes Keoghan, Saltburn has a star-studded supporting cast. With heartthrob Jacob Elordi (Euphoria), Oscar-nominated Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Ireland’s Alison Oliver (Conversation with Friends), and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl). The latter was also nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in Saltburn as Felix’s unfiltered, utterly rich mother. While Keoghan and Pike are the only two actors to garner award acclaim, everyone in the film brings their best performances. A particular standout was Alison Oliver, who plays Felix’s sister; the monologue she delivers towards the end of the film will bounce around your brain for weeks.
Outside of the performances, Saltburn is a visually stunning film. With stunning shots of the English countryside, gorgeous buildings at Oxford University, and utterly grand displays of wealth, it’s hard to take your eyes off the screen. Each shot is a visual feast, with thoughtful shot composition and clever lighting foreshadowing what’s to come. Aided by composer Anthony Willis’ alluring score, and a soundtrack chock full of early 2000’s hits, Saltburn is a feast for the eyes and ears.
The shock value of Saltburn comes from its sexually charged scenes. As the movie goes on, Keoghan’s character seemingly makes it his personal mission to seduce everyone in the household. Such scenes have gone viral on social media apps like Tik Tok, aiding the thriller’s popularity. Audiences are split, with the Guardian asking the question; “Is Saltburn the most divisive film of the year?”
No matter what your personal opinion is on the film’s lewd nature, Saltburn is sure to be remembered for years to come. Due to its visual appeal, powerful performances, toe-tapping soundtrack and shocking scenes, Saltburn is one you won’t want to miss.