The Saltburn review suggests that the Brideshead soup could benefit from more seasoning.


Rosamund Pike’s excellent performance and Carey Mulligan’s energetic cameo are the standout elements of the London Film Festival’s opening movie. The film, directed by Emerald Fennell, who previously won an Oscar for her screenplay of the powerful 2020 film Promising Young Woman, is certainly worth watching.

Saltburn is an English mystery drama of the high-cheekboned upper classes, watchable but sometimes weirdly overheated and grandiose, with some secondhand posh-effect stylings, a movie derived from Evelyn Waugh and Patricia Highsmith, with a bit of Pasolini; it’s supposed to be (mostly) set in 2006, but behaves as if it’s 1932.


Barry Keoghan takes on his first leading role as Oliver Quick, a clever but socially awkward young man from Merseyside who enrolls at Oxford to study English. His wealthy classmates at the private school look down on him as a “scholarship boy” and he struggles to open up about his difficult family history. Immediately, Oliver is captivated by the stunning and upper-class Felix Catton, portrayed by Jacob Elordi – who also stars as Elvis Presley in Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, also showing at this year’s festival.

Felix is the leader of the popular crowd at Oxford, but he unexpectedly befriends Oliver, a shy lower-class student who had helped him with his bike. It’s possible that Felix sees Oliver as a project, a pet, or a charity case, or maybe he simply feels more at ease around him than with his other wealthy peers. After hearing about Oliver’s difficult and surprising home life, Felix invites him to spend the summer at his father’s luxurious estate, Saltburn. Despite its grandeur from before the war, the estate has managed to avoid being sold to the National Trust. To address the expected comparison to “Brideshead Revisited,” Fennell includes a line about Evelyn Waugh’s supposed fascination with the house.

We are introduced to Felix’s unconventional wealthy family, including his father Sir James and his troubled sister Venetia. The talented Pike portrays Felix’s stunning and absent-minded ex-model mother Elsbeth, who reveals her reasons for giving up her experiment with lesbianism in favor of heterosexuality. Felix’s cousin Farleigh, who is staying as a guest, resembles a mix of Anthony Blanche from Waugh’s works and Freddie Miles from Highsmith’s novels. Farleigh is resentful of Felix, the lower-class interloper who has taken over his best friend, and he also suspects that there is something dubious about Oliver. Mulligan portrays Elsbeth’s melancholic friend Pamela, the guest who never seems to leave.

Perhaps the cruel and attractive Felix will eventually grow tired of his toy Oliver, who seems out of place in this setting. However, the women in the family begin to take a liking to Oliver in various ways, resulting in a different outcome. While it is all quite entertaining, this story is a lighter version of Brideshead, lacking the Catholicism, pathos, and wartime remorse. Although Oliver, played by Keoghan, is strong and sensual when necessary, he doesn’t possess the same intense desperation as Tom Ripley – although he does have an unhealthy obsession with Felix’s abandoned bathwater similar to Ripley’s fixation on Dickie Greenleaf.

The prolonged conclusion creates an air of uncertainty, needing a shift to a more somber tone and featuring a predictable plot twist that hinges on the lack of curiosity from those in positions of power. However, the entire cast delivers strong performances, especially Pike.

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