Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn review: A Dark comedy with powerful story

Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn review:

Emerald Fennell made a big splash with her first movie as a director, Promising Young Woman, in 2020. It got people very excited for her second movie, Saltburn. This new movie will definitely get people talking, with some wild stuff happening that you need to see to believe. But how much you like everything on screen will vary from person to person.

Personally, we found Saltburn to be a darkly funny look at class differences and wealth, with a great lead performance by Barry Keoghan and some good supporting roles. However, while still bold, the movie lacked some of what made Promising Young Woman so enjoyable, so overall, it was less fun to watch.

Saltburn is set in the early 2000s and follows Oliver Quick (Keoghan), a smart but lonely new student at Oxford. Oliver wants to join the popular social crowd and gets his chance when he helps out the upper-class Felix (played by Jacob Elordi). Oliver and Felix become friends, and Felix invites him to his rich family’s estate for the summer. But can Oliver really fit into this lifestyle or is he just a plaything for wealthy Felix and his family (played by Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Archie Madekwe, and Alison Oliver)?

Saltburn trailer

Saltburn release date

Saltburn will be released in very few theaters in the United States and the UK on November 17. The movie will be released globally in theaters on November 22.

The cast of Saltburn

  • Barry Keoghan as Oliver Quick, best known for Eternals and Dunkirk
  • Jacob Elordi as Felix Catton, is known for his role in Max’s Euphoria
  • Rosamund Pike as Elsbeth, Lady Catton, Felix’s mother, Rsoamund was a James Bond girl in Die Anorher Day. She has also starred in Gone Girl and Pride & Prejudice
  • Richard E. Grant as Sir James Catton, Felix’s father. Richard has spent years in the industry and worked in popular movies and TV shows like Loki and Downton Abbey.
  • Alison Oliver as Venetia Catton, Felix’s sister
  • Archie Madekwe as Farleigh Start, Felix’s cousin
  • Carey Mulligan as “Poor Dear” Pamela, Elsbeth’s friend, Carey is best known for her role in The Great Gatsby.
  • Paul Rhys as Duncan, the butler
  • Ewan Mitchell as Michael Gavey
  • Lolly Adefope as Lady Daphne
  • Sadie Soverall as Annabel
  • Millie Kent as India
  • Reece Shearsmith as Professor Ware

What happens next is basically mental mind games related to social class differences. Oliver and the others are constantly playing tricks or barely disguising their real goals to either improve their own status or bring someone else down. But sometimes, the mental games turn into physical acts that are very shocking.

These outrageous scenes add to the movie’s dark comedy, along with some hilarious acting from Pike, Grant, and a quick cameo by Carey Mulligan. But the whole film is a balancing act between scenes that make you laugh in shock and ones that linger too long and become uncomfortable. That uneasy feeling may be exactly what Fennell wants, but it makes it a tougher watch that could turn some people off.

Also contributing to that is the fact that you won’t be rooting for anyone in this movie. All the characters are scheming against each other or putting others down, directly or indirectly. While we follow Oliver throughout, we can tell there’s something off about him the whole time that doesn’t get fully revealed until later. However, some of the things treated as big reveals aren’t really that surprising, narratively speaking.

One thing you can’t fault is that Saltburn looks great – the cinematography is lush most of the time but turns creepy at key moments, and the estate provides the perfect modern Gothic setting. Fennell’s script also doesn’t hold back.

It’s a bold move by Fennell, who’s come a long way from Call the Midwife. No surprise for anyone who saw her first film. I’m just not sure it’s the home run that Promising Young Woman was. Saltburn entertains but can also rub you the wrong way. At the very least, there will be moments you won’t forget anytime soon.

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Written by Mickel Clark

Mickel is a streaming aficionado who loves nothing more than to pen down his thoughts about the movies, anime and TV shows he has watched and likes sharing hacks on how to stream them online.