Emerald Fennell first grabbed my attention with her emotionally potent revenge drama Promising Young Woman. She wasn’t afraid to take risks with the 2020 film, which she wrote and directed. And while the movie wasn’t for everyone, it was one hell of an entertaining, disturbing, and thrilling ride. Her latest project, Saltburn, is no different. It not only surpassed the towering expectations that I had, but it has also earned itself a spot at the top of my list of best films of 2023.
I’m keeping this review spoiler-free, so we’ll keep the description brief. Saltburn tells the story of Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan), who finds fitting in at Oxford University challenging. It doesn’t take long for Oliver’s path to cross with Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who is caught off-guard by an act of kindness from Oliver. Felix recognizes that Oliver’s social life isn’t exactly thriving, so he pulls him into his social circle. And when the semester ends, Felix invites Oliver to join him at Saltburn, his eccentric family’s vast estate, for an unforgettable summer.
Unforgettable is the understatement of the century. Check out the film’s trailer below.
Saltburn Movie Trailer
Saltburn Movie Review: What I Did and Didn’t Like
Clocking in at two hours and seven minutes, Saltburn kicks off with an intriguing monologue from Keoghan’s character, Oliver. The scene’s structure mimics the feel of a confessional as Oliver speaks directly to the camera, discussing his affection for a man whom he admits he loved, though he states (not convincingly) that he was not in love with.
The stage is set for what initially feels like a relatively straightforward film, a story about a young man who is navigating a world where he feels invisible and yearns to be one of the “cool kids.” However, the story that unfolds is far more indulgent, disturbing, and divisive.
The Story & Script
Saltburn tells a wild story. It takes its time to build tension and anticipation, much like the gradual encroachment of Oliver and Felix into each other’s lives. It’s a challenging watch, but the dialogue, character development, and overall story far surpass anything I’ve seen so far this year on the big screen. And for that alone, I found this film incredibly refreshing.
At its core, Saltburn is a dark comedy satire about the high class. Opulence, excess, desire, greed, jealousy, and a nasty dark humor are all blended together here, along with a killer soundtrack for what will inevitably become a new cult classic.
Keoghan’s performance is hauntingly captivating, eliciting both sympathy for his circumstances and an understanding of his classmates’ apprehension towards him. He’s equally charming as he is creepy. Whatever the moment demands – Keoghan brings it and nails it.
The casting of Jacob Elordi as Felix is a stroke of brilliance, presenting him as an embodiment of the golden ideal – handsome, privileged, and seemingly oblivious to it all. The juxtaposition of Oliver and Felix creates a truly compelling narrative, and their on-screen chemistry makes them a delight to watch.
Carey Mulligan also delivers a memorable performance as Pamela, another outsider taken under the wing of Felix’s family. Her fate serves as a warning to Oliver, but his infatuation with Felix and the allure of a privileged lifestyle blind him to the looming danger. While Mulligan’s screen time is brief in the overall film, she does a beautiful job of highlighting Pamela’s vulnerability and resilience.
While some of the characters can feel a bit stereotypical, they’re multi-faceted in such a bold way that it’s impossible to pigeonhole them into simple categories. Everyone shines in this film. It’s a brilliant ensemble.
At the time of writing this review, Saltburn sits at the number one position in my list of top 10 movies of 2023. It’s a wonderfully weird film that’s wildly f***ed up. And I am here for it. It doesn’t shy away from exploring uncomfortable topics and making the audience squeal in disgust countless times. And somehow, in these uncomfortable moments, it sets an oddly intense tone that sets it apart from anything else I’ve seen this year.
Its eccentricity is its charm. And it’s refreshing to watch such a unique story with such complex characters. Although I doubt it will shatter any records, it is unquestionably one of 2023’s cinematic masterpieces. It has the potential to become a cult classic, appreciated by those who value depth and originality over mainstream appeal.
Saltburn Movie Review:
Note: FanBolt’s Featured Image is fan art. We create this fan art purely for the love of design and fan culture. (We’re movie and design nerds). The property and fandom inspire the artwork, and no infringement is/was intended. Saltburn is the property of Amazon Studios and MGM.