Saltburn title card, as featured in the first act of the film
Saltburn title card, as featured in the first act of the film
Emma Chrapowicki

How Saltburn worked in some areas, and lacked in others

On November 17th, 2023, Emerald Fennell’s sophomore directorial project, Saltburn, debuted in select theaters across the United States and the United Kingdom. The film quietly amassed positive reception from critics and viewers before it was released on Prime Video on December 22nd. The cast features Golden Globe-nominated actors Barry Keoghan and Jacob Elordi, with supporting performances from Rosamund Pike, Alison Oliver, and Archie Madekwe. Simply put, Saltburn puts a 2007-esque spin on the tale of The Talented Mr. Ripley, while dismantling the presence of socioeconomic hierarchies in social dynamics.


The film follows Oxford student Oliver Quick, who quickly forms an infatuation with wealthy classmate Felix Catton. Oliver tinkers with Felix’s bike for a reason to interact with him, which gradually leads into a series of monumental lies. Not long after Oliver is invited to the Catton family’s estate, Saltburn, he and Felix take a trip to see the Quick family–upper middle class with a living father in the picture, contrary to what Oliver has told Felix. Oliver attempts to work his way into close relations with other members of the Catton family until his unraveling is manifested and he falls into a psychotic break.


“I thought it was a good movie with very interesting themes and messages,” Nathan Brown ‘25 said.


Saltburn is heavily reliant on its visuals and cinematography. It was shot in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 as opposed to the usual 1.85:1 or 2.39:1. The cinematography is reminiscent of an independent project from the 2000s, while creating the illusion that the viewer is witnessing Oliver’s downfall firsthand. As eerily impersonal as the dialogue feels, the more involved framing balances the discomfort out. 

“I thought the casting decisions were really good. However, the plot felt kind of overdone,” Abigail Freire ‘26 said. 

The film puts more work into framing and blocking–leaving less room for the writing to make an impact. Fennell spends much of the duration of the film attempting to weave an expounded psyche into each of the characters, but the final result still comes off as insufficient. Though the second act of the film begins to further explore the characters, most of them are written out before they are able to fully come to life. Furthermore, the progression of the final scenes is typical. Oliver gradually works his way into becoming the last man standing–similar to that of much of the psychological thriller genre.


Despite criticism, Saltburn has gone on to receive nominations for numerous awards. On January 7th, Barry Keoghan and Rosamund Pike took home Golden Globes for their performances in a lead and supporting role.

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