SYNOPSIS: Academy Award winning filmmaker Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) brings us a beautifully wicked tale of privilege and desire. Struggling to find his place at Oxford University, student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) finds himself drawn into the world of the charming and aristocratic Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who invites him to Saltburn, his eccentric family’s sprawling estate, for a summer never to be forgotten. 


Saltburn is one of the most talked-about movies in 2023 likely because of its various provocative scenes involving kinky sex and nudity.

Directed and written by Academy Award winner Emerald Fennell (Young Promising Woman), the supposedly drama or dark comedy tells the story of Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan), a nerdy scholarship student who struggles to fit into the upper class of University of Oxford. Soon he befriends the popular, handsome and rich Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi) and the latter invites him to stay at his family’s huge castle, Saltburn.

There Oliver gets to know Felix’s eccentric parents, Sir James (Richard E. Grant) and Lady Elspeth (Rosamund Pike), her sister Venetia (Alison Oliver) and their cousin, Farleigh (Archie Madekwe) who happens to be their classmate as well.

What seems to be an ordinary story of social class, the rich and their zany eccentric ways soon turn into a nasty, dark attempt by Oliver’s sinister means and moral depravity to “take control” of the Cattons and Saltburn.

Takeaway all the controversies, Saltburn reminds one of The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) which in turn was adapted from a Patricia Highsmith novel. While Matt Damon was pretty boyish, innocent looking at that time, Keoghan simply has that shifty feel despite a likeable presence. Thus it’s not a surprise when things start to go south as jealousy and envy starts to seep into the character of Oliver.

Indeed, Oliver Quick is not a conman as compared to Tom Ripley but nevertheless, he is equally brutal in his methods. He is probably queer, incredibly brilliant, disturbed and Barry Keoghan puts on a stunning performance as a sly as fox, working class character.

Perhaps Fennell’s intention is to drive a satirical story about all the absurdness of the wealthy elites, there’s nothing rich or profound in the end product. Thanks to the amazing Richard E. Grant and Pike, there’s a standout scene whereby the main characters gather together for lunch pretending everything is normal despite the death of a main character in the maze garden. It’s a wickedly tragic yet funny scene and you wish there were more of these happening in Saltburn instead of watching Oliver’s slurping Felix’s bathwater.

The cinematography by Linus Sangren is certainly gorgeous even though you might questioned the narrative. All in all, Saltburn is a fascinating watch, genuinely entertaining, lurid at times and never boring. Just don’t expect it to be a masterpiece.


Review by Linus Tee