Its plot may be a bit derivative and its politics are somewhat incoherent, but Saltburn is a fun, sexy romp full of great visuals and aristocratic excess

Film Review by Jamie Dunn | 13 Nov 2023
  • Saltburn
Film title: Saltburn
Director: Emerald Fennell
Starring: Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Alison Oliver, Archie Madekwe, Carey Mulligan, Paul Rhys
Release date: 17 Nov
Certificate: 15

Saltburn very much resembles its cast of colourful characters: it’s sexy, it's funny and it doesn’t have a single original idea in its pretty little head. It concerns the intense friendship that forms between Oliver (Keoghan), a shy wee working-class lad from Merseyside who’s embarking on his first year at Oxford, and Felix (Elordi), a statuesque aristocrat whose charisma has the gravitational pull of the sun. The chalk and cheese pair become fast friends over first year, with Felix enamoured with Oliver’s tales of growing up poor in a filthy council house, while Oliver is simply enamoured. 

The bromance kicks up a gear when Felix invites Oliver to stay at his family pile, the sprawling country estate of the title where weeknight dinners are black-tie events and impromptu birthday bashes are wilder than Berghain. Here we meet Felix’s blue-blooded brood and they’re a riot of awfulness. Particularly hilarious is Rosamund Pike as Felix’s mother, an ex-model with a talent for withering comments disguised as compliments. 

Initially, it seems writer-director Emerald Fennell is trying to make a comment on the British class system but as her lurid plot unfolds it becomes clear her politics around social status are as incoherent as they were on rape culture in Promising Young Woman. Saltburn thankfully doesn’t leave the same bitter taste, though. Derivative it may be – the plot is a salad of ideas pinched from Evelyn Waugh, Patricia Highsmith and Pasolini – you won’t be bored for a second as you swim in its jaw-dropping imagery and thigh-slapping one-liners.

Released 17 Nov by Warner Bros., certificate 15