Saltburn Movie Review

Saltburn movie poster

A poor, unpopular Oxford kid befriends a rich, popular Oxford kid and integrates into his family–and their estate–in the wickedly good Saltburn. Sharply written, superbly acted, and ruthlessly mischievous in all the right ways, it’s easily one of the best movies of the year.

From Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), Saltburn stars Barry Keoghan as the unassuming Oliver Quick, who awkwardly charms his way into a summer retreat at the mansion of his new friend Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi). Felix’s parents (Rosamund Pike and Richard E. Grant), sister Venetia (Alison Oliver), and cousin (Archie Madekwe) are also there for extra tension and intrigue.

Much of Saltburn is about tension and intrigue, though for quite a while Fennell keeps you guessing at which way her story is going to veer. Keoghan is both adorable and a little creepy, as Keoghan’s characters tend to be, his character complex and often contradictory. He’s absolutely fantastic. Elordi is equally great; as he does in “Euphoria,” he takes what could easily be a straightforward and bland popular jock role and makes it something layered and compelling. Pike and Grant are terrific too, though the surprise scene-stealer is Oliver, who is as captivating as she is rapturous. Her final scene is one for the ages.

The cast elevates the material in incredible ways, but the material is incredible to begin with. At first the storytelling, and the way Fennell puts it all on camera, isn’t as bold and boisterous as Promising Young Woman, but in Saltburn she attacks in other ways, slowly at first, arousing your suspicions, and then with increasing intensity. The movie is darkly funny, then darkly serious. It simmers with sexuality, a blend of lust, seduction, and whatever it is that creepy stalkers feel when they’re, you know, stalking someone.

It’s best to go into Saltburn knowing as little as possible; the experience, which evolves and twists and thrusts forward in unsuspecting ways, is worth every second.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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