This is it — the film everyone’s going to be talking about. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Emerald Fennell returns with Saltburn, a twisting gothic tale about love, privilege, and desire.
The movie follows Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan), who’s struggling to find his place as a student at Oxford University. When he befriends Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), he finds himself invited to the Catton family’s sprawling estate, Saltburn, for an unforgettable summer.
Check out our spoiler-free review below.
“We’re all about to lose our minds.”
Saltburn is a difficult film to discuss, because it’s one where the twists and turns of the plot should be kept closely guarded. This is definitely a movie where the experience watching will be most impactful if you go in knowing just the bare bones.
If you’ve seen Fennell’s previous work on Promising Young Woman or even her season of Killing Eve, you’ll notice similar themes popping up in Saltburn. That said, this story is by far Fennell’s most unabashedly unhinged to date. If you need characters to be sympathetic, to have their every misdeed explained and justified by the plot, to have them uphold a moral code similar to your own — Saltburn is not the movie for you.
Without diving into the specifics of the plot, the story is undeniably compelling, expertly building up moments of tension, cutting through them with biting humor, and beginning the cycle all over again. Fennell takes big swings with the — shall we say, unusual — actions of her characters. But what really works is the way she drags out the film’s most surprising and unhinged moments. Going into the film, you’d never be able to predict these scenes; and yet somehow, in the moment just before something horrific and unexpected happens, you know exactly what’s going to play out next. You’re left squirming in your seat, thinking, Please tell me he’s not about to do THAT. And of course, what you dread is exactly what happens.
Saltburn brings a stacked cast and powerful performances
I honestly can’t heap enough praise on the Saltburn cast. Everyone in this movie delivers incredible individual performances, and the cast chemistry is on point.
Though everyone plays their parts well, Barry Keoghan really shoulders this film. And he does it with apparent ease — which, when you see everything this movie throws at him, only becomes more impressive. From fish-out-of-water to something entirely different, Keoghan’s turn as Oliver Quick should see him be a huge contender headed into awards season.
Rosamund Pike’s out-of-touch aristocratic matriarch is the funniest character in the film, dropping backhanded compliments and casual 1%-isms like no one’s business. I loved every second she was on screen. Frankly, I’d watch an Elspeth Catton spinoff in a heartbeat.
Jacob Elordi easily slips into the role of “guy everyone loves,” delivering earnest charm one moment and then making you roll your eyes as he sheepishly explains that dinners at Saltburn are all black tie affairs.
Richard E. Grant, Alison Oliver, and Archie Madekwe all play their parts perfectly too, rounding out the summer at Saltburn. Oh, and Carey Mulligan’s brief appearances as Poor Dear Pamela? Undeniably fun. All in all, I couldn’t imagine a better cast for this film.
You’ll have something to talk about after watching Saltburn
Finally, the overall production of Saltburn really just ties everything together. Visually, the film somehow finds an intersection between moody gothic vibes and sun-soaked summer vacations. The combination is unexpected, but dovetails perfectly with the story and characters.
Everything about the film feels carefully crafted to Fennell’s specific vision, from the halls of Saltburn manor to its mazed garden, to the music and other media cementing the setting in the early 2000s, to the iconic visuals of a Midsummer Night’s Dream masquerade.
Saltburn can be a hard film to describe, especially when you’re trying to avoid spoiler territory. But suffice it to say, this one will make a splash not only during awards season, but among audiences. Go see it with someone else. You’re going to want to laugh, cringe, and gasp your way through it with a friend. Love it or hate it, you’re going to want to talk about it.
Saltburn premieres in theaters November 22. Go see it, but keep the spoilers to yourself!