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Saltburn – BFI London Film Festival 2023 (Film Review)

3 min read

After bursting onto the scene with her debut feature film, Promising Young Woman, which won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and a further four nominations, returns with her sophomore directorial effort. Opening this year's BFI London Film Festival, lots of anticipation has surrounded Saltburn; so, does it live up to the hype?

Set in 2006, the movie follows Oliver Quick (), an Oxford University student struggling to find his place when he is drawn into the world of Felix Catton (). When Felix invites him to his family estate, Oliver witnesses a summer never to be forgotten.

Sprawling with some fantastic work behind the camera, there is lots to digest in Saltburn from a filmmaking perspective. Firstly, the idea to shoot the film with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 makes everything seem far more grander and massive. For instance, the Saltburn manor feels that bit more extravagant because of this. Linus Sandgren's cinematography is also gorgeous and some of the best this year. He frames everything to feel massive and makes each frame look like a painting; filling each shot with so much detail and using the camera as a way to show the layers and complexities to each character.

The ensemble is also fantastic. Barry Keoghan, once again, proves he is one of the best young talents in the business as he is able to play such complex characters and make it look easy. Between Saltburn and his work in The Banshees of Inisherin, he is definitely an actor to look out for in the future. Jacob Elordi is also remarkable in this; mainly known for his work in Euphoria and The Kissing Booth franchise, here he gets to steal scenes as the charming interest to Keoghan's Oliver. He perfectly plays a spoilt, upper-class student who charms everyone he comes across and his screen presence is excellent here. Rosamund Pike is also wickedly great here with Richard E. Grant is having a blast in his role as Sir James of Saltburn Manor.

However, while 90% of Saltburn is incredibly great, the film is a little rough around the edges when it tries to push the shock factor up to eleven for the sake of it. There are a few instances in the film where Fennell tries to shock the audience and it doesn't particularly serve the story as smartly as it thinks it does. The film also takes a very different approach in its final act which will divide a lot of people; some will hate it while others will applaud its ambition. Definitely not one that will sit well with everyone, similar to Promising Young Woman's final moments.

Regardless of its flaws, Saltburn is another wildly ambitious and wicked on wealth and a fantastic opener for this year's London Film Festival. With a great soundtrack (consisting of The Killers & MGMT, etc.), gorgeous cinematography and production design along with career-best performances from some of its cast, this is definitely one of the year's best. 

Saltburn played at this year's BFI London Film Festival and will be released in UK cinemas on November 17.