“Lots of people get lost in Saltburn.”Duncan
In her sophomore picture, Emerald Fennell returns to the theme of privilege from Promising Young Woman, this time focusing on wealth, beauty and status. All of these things separate Oliver from his peers at Oxford until he befriends the popular Felix. Divided into three distinct acts, the first is Oliver’s struggle to fit in at university, the second is his invitation to stay at the intimidating estate at Saltburn, and the third is invariably where things begin to unravel, both for the characters and, unfortunately, the film. Barry Keoghan, who impressed in The Banshees of Inisherin, is intense and expressive as Oliver, with a strange voyeurism and impulsiveness reminiscent of The Talented Mr Ripley. It is easy to understand why he wishes to ingratiate himself with the Catton family, the supporting cast creating an atmosphere at once welcoming yet fickle. Following his work on Babylon, cinematographer Linus Sandgren captures the hedonistic parties exquisitely, switching between visual cacophony and calm. Fennell has suggested that the unusual 1.33:1 aspect ratio gives the impression of “peeping in”, though I found it most effective in allowing the historic architecture to loom over the characters, particularly when Oliver first arrives at Saltburn. The sharper satire of the wealthy is laugh-out-loud funny (particularly with the delivery of Richard E. Grant and Rosamund Pike) and could have supported a whole film, but Fennell has grander motivations, revelling in her imagery like a maze with a minotaur statue at its centre and Felix Icarus-like in costume wings. Subtlety is not Fennell’s style. There is rich and intoxicating cinema to experience here, and it is a shame she is not quite able to stick the landing — the last half hour feels like it might work in a novel but it is unsatisfying on screen, diluting the overall experience.