Spoiler Alert ⚠️

Just got out of the cinema after watching “Saltburn,” the new film by the English actress, director, writer, and 2021 Oscar winner for “Promising Young Woman.” “Saltburn” is a psychodrama and dark comedy which left me ecstatic with its delightful, shocking, and provocative plot. Starring Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Alison Oliver, Archie Madekwe, and Carey Mulligan in a supporting role.

Set in England in 2006, the film depicts the story of the young student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) from a rural area in the UK, who enters the University of Oxford on a scholarship, mingling with students from the English aristocracy. Oliver is perceived as a shy, insecure, nerdy student, dedicated to studies, seeking his place, and trying to make friends. He feels out of place among the elite but is fascinated by the popularity, charm, and beauty of the wealthy Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi).

After an incident where Felix’s bike tire punctures on the way to an important class, Oliver promptly offers to help by lending his bike. From then on, Oliver manages to grab Felix’s attention, who, in return for Oliver’s generosity, brings him into his life and circle of friends.

As the days pass at university, Oliver and Felix become close friends, causing surprise and displeasure for Farleigh (Archie Madekwe), Felix’s American cousin at the same college, who doesn’t hide his sympathy for Oliver and resists Felix having Oliver as a friend.

Felix embodies the perfect guy: popular, friendly, charming, handsome, and wealthy, who never had problems with rejection, prejudice, etc.
He sympathises and shows empathy for Oliver’s harsh family story when Oliver reveals he is an only child coming from a poor and dysfunctional family with violent and dependent parents.
After some disagreements, Felix distances himself from Oliver, replacing him with girls and new friends, causing feelings of abandonment and anger in Oliver. However, after knowing about Oliver’s father’s tragic death, Felix reconnects with Oliver and invites him to spend the summer in Saltburn, which belongs to Felix’s family.

Oliver is shocked by the size of the classic mansion and all the pomp and circumstance of Felix’s family culture, complete with servants. Oliver is warmly welcomed by Felix’s eccentric and out-of-touch parents, Elsbeth Catton (Rosamund Pike) and Sir James (Richard E. Grant), while drawing the attention of Vanitia (Alison Oliver), Felix’s problematic sister, and facing Farleigh’s resentment.

As the days unfold, Oliver experiences a mix of shock and awe at the surreal way Felix’s family lives, immersed in luxury, etiquette, and extravagance. During this time, he becomes more attracted to Felix, observing and initiating a strange and risky game involving Vanitia and Farleigh.

At this point, the film surprises us with a plot twist that caught me off guard and surely captivated the entire audience. From a shy, dedicated student with a simple family, and attracted to his college friend, Oliver reveals his dark side: a young man obsessed with Felix and everything he represents—popularity, charm, sympathy, wealth—portraying an engaging, shocking, and amusing psychopathy.

Throughout the narrative development, we, as viewers, are treated to a seductive plot, a script where the narrative unfolds in a creative, innovative way, and every allegory makes sense. Fennel succeeds in bringing a bold satire of the classicist elite and the obsession and excesses of society, with doses of eroticism & homoeroticism, thriller, mysteries, psychological drama, and dark comedy, full of surprises and twists in its central dramatic arc.

The script is filled with pop culture references like other films such as “The Addams Family” and “My Private Idaho.”Some scenes from the film are worthy of entering the history of cinema, such as the bathtub scene where Oliver fantasises after spying on Felix’s bath, or the scene where Oliver seduces Vanitia even while she’s menstruating, or when he teaches Farleigh a lesson by invading his room in the middle of the night. These scenes are deliciously embarrassing and shocking, but at the same time, I felt empathy for Oliver and his craziness, thanks to Fennel’s precise direction and sharp script. Fennel reveals all the madness and imperfections that reside in humans.

Finally, the star-studded cast knows how to make the most of every line, every scene, giving a show of bizarre and enchanting performances. I highlight the charm and beauty created by the experienced Rosamund Mary Ellen Pike as Elspeth, Felix’s mother, a former model with a flair for melodrama and casual cruelty. I highlight Richard E. Grantis as sweetly shallow in an almost childlike way as Felix’s father, Sir James. Alison Oliver is Felix’s chicly tragic and troublemaker sister, Venetia, the ” Promising Young Woman” star Carey Mulligan returns in a quietly hilarious supporting role as the family’s houseguest, Pamela (or as she’s credited, “Poor Dear Pamela”), and, of course, there’s Farleigh, who sees through everyone and everything but would never dare jeopardise his position.

And of course, Irish actor Barry Keoghan is phenomenal as Oliver, transitioning from the sweet and passionate young student to the dangerous psychopath capable of anything to achieve his goals.

The actor manages to keep the character charismatic, to the point that we still like him with all his layers, nuances, and the complexity of being human. Barry deserves an Oscar nomination next year, as evidenced by his dance to the sound of “Murder on the Dancefloor”—that alone is worth the statuette.

Moreover, the soundtrack featuring indie pop songs from the 2000s is the icing on the cake, including tracks from Sophie Ellis Bextor, MGMT, Arcade Fire, The Killers, etc. It’s a real banger!

In conclusion, the film reaffirms Fennel’s immense talent and perspective on the entertainment industry and pop culture of the current world. From today onward, Fennel is my favourite filmmaker of this new generation of Hollywood artists.

Saltburn provokes by delving into the dark side of humanity through obsession and excess. It’s a must-watch movie!

Photo: Warner Bros.

See the official trailer :