An Oxford University student spends the summer with his classmate's eccentric upper-class family in Saltburn. Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) is a scholarship student at Oxford University in the mid-2000s. Oliver befriends Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), a popular student, who takes sympathy over Oliver's stories of his troubled home life. In the summer of 2007, Felix invites Oliver to spend the summer at his family's estate, Saltburn. Oliver becomes acquainted with Felix's parents Sir James (Richard E. Grant) and Lady Elspeth (Rosamund Pike), sister Venetia (Alison Oliver), family friend Pamela (Carey Mulligan), and American cousin Farleigh Start (Archie Madekwe), the latter whom Oliver already became acquainted with at Oxford. As Oliver finds himself welcomed by this eccentric bunch, his true intentions soon begin to surface.
Saltburn is a darkly comic psychological thriller written and directed by Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman). The film stars Barry Keoghan (The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Banshees of Inisherin) as Oliver Quick, a scholarship student at Oxford struggling to fit in with the upper-class student body. Oliver becomes infatuated with popular student Felix Catton, played by Jacob Elordi (Priscilla), gaining his sympathy by sharing the story of his father's suicide. Felix invites Oliver to join him at his family's estate, Saltburn.
Oliver eases himself into the family dynamic of black-tie dinners and nude sunbathing in the field, while secretly lusting after Felix and sharing nighttime flirtations with his sister Venetia. However, Oliver soon begins to wear out his welcome, especially after Felix learns that he has not been entirely honest. It is then that Oliver reveals his true intentions with this eccentric family.
My Thoughts on Saltburn
For her sophomore feature film, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Emerald Fennell creates a psychological thriller full of homoeroticism and deception, with Saltburn ending up bearing more than a few similarities to The Talented Mr. Ripley. The film is narrated by an older version of Barry Keoghan's Oliver Quick, reflecting on the summer he spent at Saltburn and his friendship/infatuation with Felix Catton.
The homoeroticism of Saltburn, which includes a nauseating moment involving a bathtub, is probably going to be the element that makes or breaks most viewers of the film. Emerald Fennell completely objectifies both Barry Keoghan and Jacob Elordi at one point or another, with both being seen a various stages of undress, including a fully nude dance sequence. Most of the sexual content in Saltburn seems meant to make people feel uneasy, whether it be vampiric oral sex or sexual assault in the middle of the night.
By the end, Saltburn did not do it for me and I'm going to file it as a sophomore slump for Emerald Fennell. The film has none of the social commentary that made Promising Young Woman so memorable and instead Saltburn feels like a perverse homoerotic fantasy. While this might appeal to some people, I have to say that I was not one of them.