Emerald Fennell who just recently starred in the number one grossing film of the year Barbie as Midge has returned back onto the big screens but this time in the director chair, for her second feature film Saltburn.
This comes just three years after her debut feature film Promising Young Woman, which received positive reviews from the critics when it first came out.
Saltburn is a very different film compared to Promising Young Woman and even quite different to things that Fennell has written previously and shows she has range within her writing and directing.
Saltburn 2023 Movie Review
Saltburn is a dark comedy, psychological thriller which is about Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) an Oxford student who struggles to find his place but finds himself soon living in the world of the charming Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who invites him down to Saltburn, his eccentric family’s castle, for a summer that will never be forgotten.
Barry Keoghan takes the lead in this film after starring in Oscar Nominated The Banshees of Inisherin. Out of all the characters I’ve witnessed Barry play in the past, this feels like the role was made with his acting range in mind and he easily becomes the star of the film.
Keoghan manages to tackle the two personalities that we see Oliver go back and forth between very well, making it hard to know whether you should be in support of his character or hate his character.
This film makes you feel like this on several occasions with the story it’s telling that by the end, you don’t know if you should be happy about the overall outcome or distraught by the overall events that take place in the final act of the film. Saltburn’s final act is one of the most hectic final acts I’ve seen at the London Film Festival so far and this year overall.
There are several points throughout the final act where you think the film’s going to end but the madness just continues on and on to the point where it eventually becomes a guessing game of how worse the situation these characters are in get.
Barry Keoghan isn’t the only lead in this film, we also have Jacob Elordi as Felix Catton. As soon as the film starts, it makes you wonder what type of character he’s going to be, painting him as this mysterious character whose role in the film is of much importance.
This mysterious aura around him fades away eventually as you get to learn more about the character but even without this mysterious aura there’s still something about Felix and it’s the amount of sexual tension he brings onto the scene anytime he’s with Oliver.
Just like Oliver, we tend to get different sides of Felix, we get to see how he is around his family who are upper class and though Felix seems like he tries to deny this, it’s something that’s hard to go unnoticed when you live in a castle. Jacob Elordi does an excellent job as Felix but at times, his British accent can become too noticeable and it feels like Jacob was trying to impersonate a posh British person.
The further I got into the film, the realisation came in that maybe that’s exactly what Fennell wanted and after seeing how everyone acts once Oliver reached Saltburn, it became quite clear that Fennell was making fun of the upper class.
Alongside the two leads is a superb supporting cast who drop some of the best one-liners and who steal certain scenes completely. Playing the role of Felix’s mother Elspeth was Rosamund Pike and in the role of his father Sir James was Richard E. Grant. Both were perfectly cast in the roles and also showed the range that was needed to play both roles. Fennell’s goal within this film is to try to make us feel sympathy not for the upper class but for unlikeable people, the type of people you can’t stand and if it’s possible to actually fall in love with them.
This is the dilemma that we find with our main character Oliver struggling and it’s one that we eventually start struggling with too and still ponder once the credits roll. She shows this perfectly in the way the Catton family behave and how fake they are with their personalities.
We also have Archie Madekwe who has just come from the recently released Gran Turismo. In this film he plays Felix’s cousin Farleigh, who essentially is the bully of the film and in a sense is one of the reasons that drives Oliver further into the character he becomes at the end.
The film plays around a lot with social status and we see this between the life Oliver lives and what he supposedly has to deal with back home compared to the life that Felix and Farleigh lead. Though Farleigh gets to live in Saltburn with Felix, race eventually plays into the situation when he comes across family troubles and how the Catton’s want to deal with it compared to how they deal with other situations once they involve white people.
It was interesting to see this dynamic and something I wish it touched more in the film.
Saltburn is another great film in the London Film Festival lineup that plays around with the social hierarchy while escalating rapidly as plot twists get unravelled. It’s a crazy film that will have you questioning what you’ve watched and playing with your emotions. Emerald Fennell has for sure made a really good film that brings out the best performances within Barry Keoghan and Jacob Elordi.
Rating: 4 out of 5