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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Saltburn (MA) - 131 minutes

What a bombshell of a film, where the rules of engagement are constantly shifting.

It is slow burn, but when the axe drops it is anything but blunt.

Along the way there are some seriously outrageous moments.

Writer and director Emerald Fennell (who went “whack” with Promising Young Woman) set out to make a film about love.

More specifically, the kind of locust, scorched-earth, cannibal love that you feel at a certain age.

Saltburn is a modern gothic romance, in which class, power and sex collide.

Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) presents at Oxford University in 2006 as a friendless scholarship student from a troubled home.

Well-spoken and reserved, the only one seemingly interested in forming a connecting is an awkward maths nerd.

But Quick is drawn to Mr Popularity, the aristocratic Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who is never short of company and whom girls line up to be with.

While Catton doesn’t know Quick exists, that changes when a goodwill gesture on Quick’s part plays out and is appreciated by Catton.

At the end of the university year, when Quick makes it clear that he has no desire to spend the holiday season at home, Catton invites him to his palatial abode.

Complete with an abundance of hired help, Quick comes face to face with a series of bizarre and entitled figures.

They include Catton’s parents, Elspeth (Rosamund Pike) and Sir James (Richard E. Grant), sister Venetia (Alison Oliver) and cousin Farleigh Start (Archie Madekwe).

Start is at university with Quick and Catton, but he and Catton aren’t exactly enamoured with one another.

With no expense spared, Quick isn’t exactly prepared for the family quirks that are part of the equation.

Some of their behaviour is decidedly offbeat and provocative.

But, as the saying goes, that “ain’t the half” of what goes down in Saltburn.

The longer the film progressed, the more my mind turned to movies such as The Talented Mr Ripley and Dangerous Liaisons.

In this case, expect the unexpected for there is no shortage of that.

Emerald Fennell shocks and delights in equal measure with Saltburn, a movie in which patience is rewarded.

Among the former is a bathtub scene that one can’t unsee and another involving an outdoor sexual episode beneath Quick’s bedroom at Saltburn.

In short, we – the audience – never know what is next in store for the Quick and the movie is all the better for that approach.

The musical choices by Anthony Willis (M3GAN) are

Barry Keoghan is the picture of restraint and conviction in one of the roles of his career.

He is like a wild animal, watching and waiting for the right time to strike.

Jacob Elordi is fundamentally laid back and likeable as the pretty, rich boy – a shining light to whom others are drawn.

Archie Madekwe is the manipulative outsider that knows he is onto a good thing.

Rosamund Pike has a wow of a time as Elspeth’s elegant, judgmental mother, while Richard E. Grant plays her aloof husband, with break out joyous moments.

With boldly coloured hair, Carey Mulligan also makes her mark as Elspeth’s needy younger friend Pamela.

The lure of the hunt is positively intoxicating for the key protagonist in Saltburn, as it is for us – the audience.

Fennell’s film leaves an indelible impression. Prepare for a wild and wicked ride.

Rated MA, Saltburn scores an 8 out of 10.


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