Saltburn : Austin Film Festival Review

October 27, 202380/1006 min
Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Archie Madekwe
Written by
Emerald Fennell
Directed by
Emerald Fennell
Run Time
2h 7m
Release Date
November 17th, 2023
Overall Score
Rating Summary

     With 2020’s Promising Young Woman, not only did Emerald Fennell win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, but she won a fan in me. Now, I know one is a lot better than the other, but for me, that movie put Fennell in a category of the ‘must-watch’ filmmakers. Now comes her follow-up, Saltburn, a movie that has made me love Fennell even more.

Oliver is someone we have all seen at any school we have gone to. In this case, he is starting his first year at Oxford, and being a scholarship kid plus a little awkward, it has already put him in the “no-friend zone”. He does find one, but like him, no one really knows either of them exist, except for taking up space. While the other boy has accepted his fate, Oliver, played brilliantly by the great Barry Keoghan, has his sights on one guy and wants to become his friend at any cost. That moment comes when riding his bike, and he sees Felix (Jacob Elordi) sitting with a flat tire. Needing to get to class, Oliver offers up his bike, and it seems he has found his way into Felix’s world. Not everyone is glad he is around, as one boy named Farleigh (Archie Madekwe) doesn’t really like his vibe and makes fun of him whenever he can. Oliver and Felix become good mates, and after Oliver tells Felix he has nowhere to go for the summer, Felix invites him to his home, Saltburn, for the summer. Saltburn is not a house; it’s a palace. Also there is Felix’s family, his mother Elspeth (Rosamund Pike), father Sir James (Richard E. Grant), and his sister Venetia (Alison Oliver), all setting up what will be an eventful summer.

Fennell, who wrote and directed  Saltburn, delivers a pretty mesmerizing film that perfectly merges humor and tragedy together. The story is a maze of passion, secrets, and drama, and, like Oliver does in the house, it will be easy for the audience to get lost in Saltburn. There is a lot that makes you want to inhabit this world, but none more strong than how cinematographer Linus Sandgren shoots the film. Everything looks perfect, including the way he lights Elordi, as he was an actual work of art throughout, and you can easily become entranced much like Oliver does with Felix. There is indeed a lot to digest here, but with any great piece of art, it will leave you very satisfied by the end.

 Saltburn delivers an ambitious and wild black comedy that has just the right amount of wickedness included. It is visually stunning, but there is a lot more here than just what’s on the surface. That starts with the performances, as everyone is perfectly cast and is performing at the top of their game. One of the things that stood out to me the most was the believable family dynamics that the Catton family has, with Pike leading the charge, who steals every moment she is in. That performance, though, is only outdone by Keoghan, who hooks you in and never lets go until the final shot of the film.  Saltburn ultimately delivers a stylish and satisfying movie that is filled with memorable and, at times, ridiculous characters. It is intoxicating and wildly entertaining and will make you want to get lost in Saltburn again and again.

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