Saltburn: The Story of Greed that Left me Yearning for the Year 2006

By Monique de Villiers

Not knowing much about Saltburn or director Emerald Fennell, I assumed I would be watching 2 hours of 00’s nostalgia, filled with great music and museum-worthy shots. While there was an abundance of that, I was completely blown away with how much more this film gave me and what I walked away with in the end. 

The story follows Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) who befriends Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi) while attending Oxford University, despite the two being from completely different backgrounds. After Oliver receives awful news about his father dying, Felix invites him to spend the summer with him and his family at Saltburn, his family’s estate in the country. Throughout this summer, we see a change in Oliver from who he was at university, from a shy awkward boy, to a slightly more confident man, oddly comfortable playing dress up in this make-believe world that isn’t really his. At first I didn’t think too much of these changes, and chalked it up to him finding comfort in a lavish lifestyle after his difficult childhood. That is, until the major turning point: Felix discovering that Oliver was lying about all his misfortunes. Every story about his dead drug dealer father and user mother was a lie. This was when it all started to come together, and I realised this was not simply a nostalgic and aesthetic film about the 00’s. I could feel the story beginning to thicken, and the lies all unravelling. I could feel the shit about to hit the fan.

When speaking to Felix about his family and life back home, Oliver says “I don’t think I’ll ever go home again”. This kept creeping up in my head as I saw a lifeless Felix laying on the ground, and his blood-soaked sister, Venetia Catton (Alison Oliver), sitting in the tub. It kept replaying in my mind when Oliver was refusing to leave Saltbrun as Sir James Catton (Richard Grant), Felix’s father, was demanding he do so. He was telling us that he isn’t going back where he came from, and that he will make Saltburn his home at any cost. To me, the ending of this film was not obvious, and it wasn’t until Oliver’s whole plan was revealed at the end that it all started to make sense to me. 

This film somehow made me feel nostalgic for a period of time when I was 8 years old, sad but also grateful that I didn’t attend Oxford, and feel attracted to a crazy murdering liar. The story told about obsession and greed, covered in layers of abundance, sex and booze, was hard to take my eyes off of. Truly, this movie had it all for me. Amazing casting and acting from every character, stunning shots at every turn, murder, and a great soundtrack to bring it all together. Even hours after watching it, I have Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Murder on the Dancefloor” stuck in my head, with the image of a fully naked Barry Keoghan dancing around the interior of Saltburn.

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