Saltburn – Review

Worth seeing: for terrific turns from Rosamund Pike and Richard E Grant in the social satire - before it morphs into a less convincing psycho thriller
Director:Emerald Fennell
Featuring:Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, Alison Oliver, Archie Madekwe, Carey Mulligan, Dorothy Atkinson, Ewan Mitchell, Joshua McGuire, Lolly Adefope, Paul Rhys, Reece Shearsmith, Richard E Grant, Shaun Dooley
Length:131 minutes
Country:UK, US
Released:17th November 2023


Oliver (Barry Keoghan) is a bit of an outsider when he arrives at Oxford University to read English.

He watches the cool kids from his bedroom window – and wishes he could hang around with them – and get closer to them – specifically the striking, charming and self-confident Felix (Jacob Elordi).

An incident with a bicycle opens the door to friendship between the pair, which grows closer when Oliver reveals details of his difficult home-life back on Merseyside.

By the time the summer holidays come around, Felix invites Oliver to stay with his family at their palatial estate – an offer he can’t refuse.

Oliver seems to cast a spell over Felix’s sister Venetia (Alison Oliver) and mother Elspeth (Rosamund Pike) but his father, Sir James (Richard E Grant) gives a slightly more wary welcome to their visitor.

As the weeks pass, tensions rise – between Oliver, his hosts and the other house guests – with the most unexpected consequences.


Actress turned writer-director Emerald Fennell follows up her Oscar-winning debut Promising Young Woman with a pitch-black class comedy that eviscerates the landowning gentry.

But as the plot unfolds, it starts to take an altogether different path, as social drama gives way to psycho thriller – and it’s not a gradual switch, but a sudden dog-leg turn that follows a somewhat disturbing moment in a bathroom.

If you try not to think too deeply about what’s going on, there’s some enjoyment to be had from the social satire and interpersonal rivalries, but the key relationships often don’t feel convincing and some of the most interesting characters are the grotesque’s on the edge of the story – such as Rosamund Pike’s matriarch and the Promising Young Woman star Carey Mulligan, in a cameo as one of the hangers-on.

When the true story is finally revealed, it’s not a plot that stands up to scrutiny, as events which seemed coincidental turn out to have been calculated – but none of it feels believable.

As the audience is asked to challenge its allegiances, the denouement takes us so far from where we started that the likelihood of anyone trying to play such a long-game stretches credibility to breaking point.

Providing a prurient glance into the lives of the upper classes, while delivering a twisted tale invoking The Talented Mr Ripley, among others, there’s much to enjoy in Saltburn – but the twisted and contrived narrative will leave you feeling as cheated as some of those at the heart of the story.

It’s very much a case of style over substance.