Saltburn Won’t Be For Everyone

The new film from Promising Young Woman filmmaker Emerald Fennell, Saltburn, is a film that will not be for everyone.

I delayed writing my review because I wasn’t really sure what to say about the film. Truth be told, I still don’t know what to say about the film. What I can say for certain is that there are scenes in this film that will leave people cringing. That was certainly the case when I watched the film in late October. There’s nothing like watching a film and seeing how your fellow critics are responding to a scene in question. Anyway, I brought up the scene in question with film editor Victoria Boydell and this will run soon on Below the Line. Maybe it plays better for those very familiar with a British sense of humor but oy vey, did the scene in question not play all that well for me. Consider it a trigger warning if we have like-minded sensibilities.

Everything that happens in the film is seen through the eyes of Oxford student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan). Oliver has a quirky roommate but before you know it, he’s running in Felix Catton’s (Jacob Elordi) circle. Oliver is ever the liar and so he manages to con his way into a stay at Saltburn for the summer. If you’re wondering, the film takes place during 2006-2007. It’s a big estate but it’s going to be a summer to remember as Oliver gets to know the eccentric family: Sir James (Richard E. Grant), Elspeth (Rosamund Pike), Venetia (Alison Oliver), and cousin Farleigh Start (Archie Madekwe). There’s also Poor Dear Pamela (Carey Mulligan), the woman who visits for a weekend and never leaves.

Emerald Fennell set out to make a modern Gothic Romance and Horror and I’d say that she succeeded in doing the job. I’m not one for horror films but yeah, there are scenes here that meet my definition. I mean that in the sense that there are things in Saltburn that you absolutely cannot unsee. It’s not just the scene at the gravesite but there are others that will leave audiences cringing. But again, it’s not going to be for everyone. It’s a film that’s sure to start up conversations of social media is any indication. Throw in the country estate as the main setting and it’s going to drum up some thoughts when it comes to privilege versus desire.

I would go onto say more but then we would be diving into spoiler territory. This is a carefully structured film and I’d rather not get into all the twists and turns. The fact that Fennell and cinematographer Linus Sandgren study Alfred Hitchcock is not surprising. If you’re expecting the film to look like Downton Abbey, expect disappointment. Downton Abbey, it is not. But anyway, it’s for the best to say nothing else other than to say that Oliver is able to manipulate the entire Catton family.

Where Promising Young Woman was a revenge story, Saltburn is an entirely different beast–social power and class privilege will never be the same.

DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Emerald Fennell
CAST: Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Alison Oliver, Archie Madekwe, and Carey Mulligan

Amazon MGM released Saltburn in theaters on November 17, 2023. Grade: 3.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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