By James Diss
The Last few weeks has seen an explosion of Saltburn not just onto the big screen but the red carpet. Like her Oscar winning debut “Promising Young Women”, Fennell continues her exploration of the dark underworld and in this case with an upper-class obsessional twist.
Saltburn blends, dark academia with a gothic twist producing a sadistic commentary on identity, manipulation, and historical hierarchy’s relation to the current state of power Produced by Margot Robbie and Fennell herself. Saltburn is an original piece of filmmaking with cinematographer Linus Sandgren continuing his strong run of filmmaking (La La Land, Babylon etc) blending a 1.33.1 aspect ratio.
We are transported to high end uni life meeting Oliver (Barry Keoghan) and Felix (Jacob Elordi) during their students days at Oxford. The pair unlikely meet over a bike encounter where subsequently their friendship begins. Oliver is the outcast while Felix is the popular one of the pair. Bonding over alcohol, parties and student life leads to Oliver and Felix becoming closer where personal secrets are uncovered transporting us to the summer of Saltburn. Part of Felix’s family estate, Saltburn is something you would expect the royal family to own, Royal portraits, aches of countryside and toxic culture is all on display. Fennell crafts a brilliant portrayal of the overarching problematic culture of being wealthy, featuring social commentaries a lack of boundaries and lavish parties to get to the plot points of the film.
Barry Keoghan excels as Oliver, continuing his career run and in particular one here of playing, shy and flawed Oliver where you felt any comment would shatter him. Completing reading lists, repping the Oxford scarf, Oliver is the quiet one begging for attention. Felix, his polar opposite loves to party. Is also tall, handsome and attracts girls by the second. There is a power dynamic, and both actors contribute to this extremely well. The clash between wealth and poverty is striking creating all sorts of problematic scenarios throughout.
Rosamund Pike as Felix’s mother is the caregiver, ushering servants around at her disposal while offering what she would say as refuge to people below her. Her counterpart, Richard E Grant, is not macho as he swaps the life of an ordinary person, for someone rich, surpassing his days in the garden or in front of a paper commentating on the state of things. Alison Oliver as Felix’s sister is a deeply flawed character presenting the parental abandonment while her cousin Farleigh, played by Archie Madekwe, can’t help but stench of the family wealth, using his power at every turn and corner.
The film is a visual dream, accompanied by quick witty dialogue of the arrogance which engulfs it. Margot Robbie continues her filmmaking flexibility serving as a producer and extending her long-time collaboration with Fennell (the pair produced Promising young women). Anthony Willis crafts a perfect score for the occasion complementing Sandgren visual style.
Ultimately Fennell continues her strong run, and Saltburn is a continuation of the look into power while also a more experimental push into a modern period piece similar to those of The Favourite. Where her script differs it from the added horror, psychological thrill and a splash of mid-2000s throwback.
Saltburn. Don’t read about to, go and see it.
VERDICT: 4 stars out of 5.