Review: Saltburn – King of the castle

Directed by Emerald Fennel
Starring Barry Koeghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosemund Pike, Richard E. Grant


At its core, Saltburn seems like it has the standard story of an outsider infiltrating an upper-class environment that seems so desirable. But as we see right away from the film’s peculiar construction and point of view, this still comes across as a very original tale that intertwines the jealousy, love, and acceptance of young men, which feels in this beating heart of a film that it’s coming from an earnest, singular personal place.

Oliver (Barry Koeghan) is a scholarship student at Oxford, struggling to fit in and make friends, though he has his sights set on the very dashing Felix (Jacob Elordi). Attracted to him, Oliver manages to get closer and closer to him, the two trading back-story secrets with each other. At the beginning of the school holidays, Felix has Oliver come over to his gigantic estate, where his quirky and very wealthy parents, Lady Catton (Rosemund Pike) and Sir Catton (Richard E. Grant), reside. From here, a number of parties are thrown, friendships are tested, and secrets are revealed.

Saltburn does a great job of balancing its shifting tones. Among the younger characters, the story feels more serious about the tricky ways they present themselves. Yet the parent characters bring a sharp humour to the film, showing how these super serious young characters can likely grow up to be humorous parodies of themselves.

Saltburn really places itself in the mid-2000s, with the soundtrack, featuring the likes of Bloc Party and MGMT, evoking a sensual nostalgia for the time. However, it’s a Pet Shop Boys track from the 80s, which is key to a karaoke scene, that really puts the sting in the characters’ relationship.

The film also has a great earthly look to it, which helps with the immense lush gardens the characters reside in, not to mention the many close-ups of the characters’ faces, bodies, hands, limbs, torsos, and at times even their bodily fluids.

All of this really adds to the sensuality Saltburn has, almost as if the film itself has an organic living structure. This adds so much to the film’s nostalgic feeling, as it responds so well to those youthful feelings familiar to those of us at least past their college years, though with a handful of dramatic twists in the mix.