A&E Review

Horrific, Nauseating and Beautiful All At The Same Time: “Saltburn” Movie Review

If you want a jaw-dropping film to watch, add “Saltburn” to your list.

“Saltburn” is a dark comedy, bringing a horrific plot paired with an iconic cast and outstanding cinematography. Actress, writer and director Emerald Fennell has generated quite the buzz around her second film “Saltburn.” Fennell wrote the film to take place at Oxford University during the early 2000s. 

The film follows the storyline of student Oliver Quick (played by Barry Keoghan), a quiet, awkward and intelligent student, who struggles to make friends at Oxford. Oliver feels out of place among his wealthy classmates, who seem to have had everything handed to them. Until he meets Felix Catton (played by Jacob Elordi), a beloved student at Oxford whom just about every girl falls in love with.

The two become close friends, which is instantly shown through numerous shots of them having meaningful conversations about their pasts among their partying classmates. Oliver starts to let loose, beginning to drink and party as he leaves behind his old life of solitude for a life in the spotlight. Their friendship is out of the ordinary, and Fennell hints all throughout the film that Oliver may not want to just be friends with Felix. 

Oliver voices to Felix his horrible homelife filled with drug addicts as parents and a poor upbringing. Felix ends up asking Oliver to come stay with him and his family over the summer in their estate, Saltburn. The estate is glamorous. Filled with an abundance of rooms decorated with beautiful heirlooms and eccentric wallpaper; Oliver is in awe.

At this point in the film, Oliver is looked at as small. Felix introduces him to his picture-perfect family, who prey on Oliver’s innocence and poverty. Fennell exposes the attitudes that come with wealth and paints the family as “saviors” to Oliver.

Felix’s parents, played by Rosamund Pike and Richard E. Grant, are sensitive toward him and want to give Oliver the life that he has never lived. Felix’s sister (played by Alison Oliver) and cousin (Archie Madekwe) become close friends with Oliver, taking him in despite their incredibly different upbringings.

The summer spent at Saltburn changes the lives of all the characters for the worse. Death, secrets and affairs fill the summer and just about everything comes out. For about half of the movie, Oliver is painted as the protagonist while the life of wealth he is living can be viewed as the antagonist.

The plot then takes a turn for the worse, revealing the dark side of Oliver and who he really is. The audience is let in on the truth prior to the other characters, giving viewers an intense watch. To the viewer, we witness a side of Oliver that no other character in the film can quite see. 

 “Saltburn” is one of those movies that can get by with being incredibly dark and still remain balanced because of beautiful cinematography and the tasteful use of an incomparable soundtrack.

Filled with silhouettes, beautifully lit close-ups and shots of the English countryside, the film visually takes your breath away. The soundtrack contains early 2000s classics such as “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers, “Time to Pretend” by MGMT and “Murder On The Dancefloor” by Sophie Ellis-Bextor.

To me, a film succeeds if I can never listen to the songs on the soundtrack again without thinking of the scene it played on, and “Saltburn” has indeed succeeded in that. 

Fennell exposes the insanity one can go through for something they want. Breaking just about every boundary possible, the film leaves viewers overflowing with thoughts. I have never gasped so many times during a movie and I’m not sure if I loved it or hated it.

The film is horrific, nauseating and confusing, but I think that is exactly what Fennell wanted for “Saltburn.” Due to hating spoilers, there’s not much more to be said about the plot because of how incredibly twisted it is. You’re just going to have to see it for yourself. 

If you want to feel on the edge of your seat for the majority of your viewing experience, “Saltburn” is a must watch. The film puts viewers in a moral debate: if they should continue watching, or walk out – it can only be described as uncomfortably interesting.

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