Going in, I wasn’t expecting one of the most extraordinary yet somewhat disturbing and cringy films I’ve ever seen. The abnormal unpleasantness is why I’d like to suggest, even though I’m describing it this way, that you add this to your must-sees for 2023.
It’s startling at times, so much so that I loved it, and so will you if you can handle unconventional and offbeat films with exceptional, out-of-the-ordinary characters.
The writing is marvelous, especially when it comes to actor Barry Keoghan’s (The Banshees of Inisherin) character, Oliver. He’s so kind and quiet yet treated horribly by most until he gets to Oxford. Though this tale is chaos exemplified by a story that takes turns this way and that, it’s beautifully new. The novelty of how these figures develop will increase your love of everything you are watching. The ending does not even come close to how you imagined it would. If you think you know who these characters are, I’ll inform you now; you are wrong. It’s written and directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Emerald Fennell, who also wrote “Promising Young Woman,” which received a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. This will be in that same category; go as far if it isn’t too off-putting for some. But that’ll be their loss.
The movie does start off a little slowly, but you won’t mind that one bit when you understand the need for it to.
Oliver, somewhat of a geek, becomes acquainted with someone who’s exactly like him. He isn’t that into this friendship, preferring an attempt to become friends with those more elite. He focuses mainly on a student named Felix, played by Jacob Elordi (Euphoria). Felix is loved and adored by everyone. Oliver wants to know what it’s like to be in his orbit.
Enter Farleigh, played by Archie Madekwe (Gran Turismo). Felix likes hanging out with Oliver, so Farleigh plays friends with him just enough not to upset Felix.
High tension awaits this situation as Oliver’s obsession with Felix grows. Oliver wants what he has; he desires to belong. He needs his friendship. It’s almost a necessity in life. Barry Keoghan plays this off so well, keeping you wondering what he’s really up to. Even though you see it staring you straight in the face, it’s not so easy to catch. After spending some time drinking and getting to know one another, Felix invites friends over for the summer as he always does. This year, Oliver and Farleigh are those friends.
He and his sister Venetia (Alison Oliver) would grow weary of having to spend time with their parents, Lady Elspeth Catton (Rosamund Pike) and her husband, Sir James (Richard E. Grant), without others around them. Carey Mulligan’s Pamela is also there, though she has outworn her welcome. Her character is fantastic, but Elspeth is so jealous of her that when she later hears of her death, she says that Pamela would “Do anything for attention.”
Felix and his family have always lived in a grand estate called Saltburn. Felix takes us on a tour through the manor, which is absolutely beautiful. Pay attention. There are some great lines during this trek.
Oliver tells tale of his coming from nothing. Suddenly, being amongst all of this wealth and honor with members of the Aristocracy blows him away. Farleigh knows this new plaything Felix has attached himself to doesn’t belong, but Oliver isn’t interested in what he has to say. He quickly gets to know everyone exceptionally well and fits in, perhaps even more than Farleigh before long.
Oliver notices that Venetia is submissive, takes advantage of that when he gets a chance and has eyes for the mother of the house, as well. It’s not hard to see he’s sexually destitute. His scene with Venetia is somewhat surprising, coming from the quiet young man we’ve grown to know him to be, and it’s not the only one that will catch you off guard. Oliver being told that he’s appreciated more than previous toys Felix has had at the house is fascinating. What exactly does that mean? Makes you think. Jacob Elordi needs to be in the movie more, but his presence is felt in every scene.
Emerald Fennell has a hit on her hands with this. The overall storyline, set design, and score… this movie will be a hit. It’s dark with some comedic elements. The end will grab you and you’ll be thinking about it for several days after.
Written and Directed by: Emerald Fennell
Starring: Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Alison Oliver, Archie Madekwe, and Carey Mulligan
Rated: R (Language Throughout|Disturbing Violent Content|Graphic Nudity|Drug Use|Strong Sexual Content)
Runtime: 2h 7min
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Mystery & Thriller
Produced by: Emerald Fennell, p.g.a; Margot Robbie, p.g.a; Josey McNamara, p.g.a