Director Emerald Fennell is back on the big screen with another incredible film. After her award-winning debut feature film in 2020 with Promising Young Woman, many wondered where she would take her career. His second feature film is Salt burn, a psychological black comedy starring Barry Keoghan as Oliver Quick, who gets drawn into the world of an Oxford classmate, Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), and is invited to spend a summer on the estate of his eccentric family. This is a gripping experience that sucks you into its world and characters and achieves a lot with its premise.
Fennell immerses you in a world full of enigmatic characters, a thrilling narrative and a visual style that is as captivating as it is unique. At the heart of this magnetic experience are the mesmerizing performances of Keoghan and Elordi, whose on-screen chemistry forms the backbone of this captivating narrative. Keoghan plays our protagonist and he has a delicate job at the center of this film. It’s magnetic and effortlessly engaging. He brings to life a seductive and mysterious character, drawing viewers into his world with a charm that is hard to resist. His portrayal invites the audience to hold on to his intriguing journey, which develops greatly from start to finish.
Opposite Keoghan, Elordi shines as Felix, using his undeniable sex appeal and charm to his full advantage. His charismatic screen presence adds complexity to the character, showcasing a depth that extends beyond the surface. He has already impressed audiences this year with his role as Elvis Presley in Priscilla and continues to shine as an emerging movie star. Oliver and Felix share chemistry together, but the draw is how Felix manages to make many people fall in love with him while hiding who he really is.
Fennell’s script and direction in Saltburn are a departure from her previous work in Promising Young Woman, tackling various themes while maintaining its wit and sharpness. The film navigates through multiple facets, exploring relationships, absurd comedy and unexpected twists and turns that keep audiences engaged and entertained. Although the film contains some structural similarities to Fennell’s previous work, this gothic thriller manages to deliver an experience unlike anything you’ve seen this year with its biting satire and dark, sexual nature. Saltburn seduces you in its remarkably sumptuous setting and pulls the rug out from under you in the final act.
The musical score is a haunting force, drawing viewers deeper into the film’s immersive world. Her well-chosen and timely selections heighten the emotions and amplify the impact of certain pivotal moments, complementing Fennell’s direction and enhancing the experience. The final scene is a brilliant example of the biting soundtrack. Anthony Willis’ musical score pairs perfectly with Linus Sandgren’s stunning cinematography. Much like Promising Young Woman, Saltburn is a beautifully shot film with a strong aesthetic that shines through in almost every frame, accentuating the shocking images.
Rosamund Pike’s brilliantly humorous readings inject the film with a dose of wit and levity, adding another layer to the story’s already rich tapestry. The presence of Carey Mulligan further elevates the film, contributing to the sharp sense of humor that permeates the story. Archie Madekwe is another shining light in the film, providing an antagonistic force that thwarts our protagonist at every turn. Additionally, Fennell’s directing prowess shines through not only in her unique visual style, but also in the way she directs everyone’s performance on screen.
Despite its genius, there are a few areas that could have been explored or refined further to enhance the overall experience. Plus, Saltburn might not hold up to a rewatch for a few viewers, especially when they know what happens in the final act. Nonetheless, the film is a testament to Fennell’s prowess as a filmmaker and the exceptional performances of his actors. Keoghan and Elordi are as enchanting as ever to watch, and this film shines every time we get a glimpse of Oliver’s dark obsessions and sexual fantasies. It’s absurd and disturbing, and even if you want to look away, it brings you back.
Fennell has created a setting bursting with flavor, and the events that unfold in this mansion are a marvel to behold. This extremely well-constructed tale begins as a wonderfully warm look at a story of friendship, but with Fennell’s work, nothing is ever that simple. If you’re looking for an enchanting and vibrant class satire with a dark twist, look no further than this gem of a film. It’s dark, funny and an unforgettable experience.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a rating of 8 is equivalent to “Excellent.” While there are some minor issues, this score means the art achieves its goal and leaves a memorable impact.
Disclosure: ComingSoon attended a press screening for our Saltburn magazine.