Saltburn – Film Review: Dir: Emerald Fennell

Saltburn, described as a ‘psychological black comedy thriller’ opens in cinemas today. We sent Jude Mannion off to a preview screening to have a look. Here’s what Jude has to say.

Starring Barry Keoghan, Rosamund Pike, Jacob Elordi, Richard E. Grant

Emerald Fennell, writer, producer and director, whose 2020 debut Promising Young Woman won her an Oscar screenplay, must have enjoyed having these slippery characters  squirming between her clever, tough fingers, playing with humans like baby dolls…toying with their lives, the wealthier they were…the less authentically human they become.

The main, not wealthy, character Oliver, fantastically played by Barry Keough – (accidently portraying his true life), of a harsh upbringing with poverty.

We think.

He’s a scholarship boy in the grandest school in the country, and befriended by hugely entitled Felix (Jacob Elordi), who adopts Oliver as a household pet rabbit, and invites him to his home Saltburn for his summer vacation.

And here the story begins.

Felix’s father (Richard E. Grant) is impeccably polished with grandiosity –indeed a role we know only Richard E. Grant would shine in -as he does, alongside Felix’s perfectly poised and glamorous ex-model mother Elsbeth, Rosamund Pike, a role she brings home with magnificent ease , she has a personality that floats lightly as a balloon,to avoid any real life trauma, alongside Felix’s sex-babe sister Venetia (Alison Oliver)

You might almost lavish in the superficial ego-indulgence of the beyond wealthy, each dragging diminished personalities around behind them. They have everything, yet still desire more. They express themselves like characters playing normal human beings, but empathy or compassion have been strictly marched out of their mansion, you’ll get the feeling.

Expectedly Oliver carries no grace or power amongst this narcissist elite, their pridefulness peels back, for their entertainment, his remoteness with their privileged lives.

He plays his role with such integrity, your emotions run toward him to embrace his unchaperoned self ,and take care of him.


It’s a double-edged waltz, inside traditional aggrandizement excluding just one lone character who is the real one.

We think.

A majestic, possibly 34-bedroom castle – primed English countryside setting, seductive outdoor green water pools, cocktails excessively punctuating every day, a plethora of submissive staff lurking in every room, but sadly never in the rooms where the darkness takes over the light.

I can be a little slow in picking up when a movie turns from light to dark, then really dark so I’m grateful Emerald made this transition clear for me. It just walks in and sits in the room beside you-like it or not.

And then the other story begins. True, you get two stories for the price of one.

If you’ve enjoyed other movies observing the lead role becoming someone else, welcome in.

It’s almost bracing that these characters themselves capture you, above the over the top luxuriously steeled scenes they immerse themselves in, why should we indulge them?

As a failed Irish Catholic, I’d like to believe the moral of the story might be- extreme wealth shrugs off  morality, whilst helpfully protecting ,until somehow, that can run dry.

Entertaining, yes. Deep and compelling, no. Unexpected and playful, you betcha!

Served with a naked dance performed by Oliver, to cough-up closure, with a truly audacious taste.

Jude Mannion

In cinemas now.

Click here for tickets and showtimes.