Emerald Fennell’s directing career got off to a cracking start with the thought provoking ‘Promising Young Woman’ and she has now followed it up with the weird, wonderful and sometimes, a bit revolting ‘Saltburn’. A mixture of ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ and ‘Brideshead Revisited‘, Saltburn has a young, middle class interloper (who claims to be working class in this case) becoming absorbed in the intoxicating, self centred, very eccentric world of the Catton family, so wonderfully revolting Evelyn Waugh was obsessed with them. What follows are shocks galore, dressed in the most exquisite of characters and styling, in the stunning confines of Saltburn itself.
The beauty of Saltburn is in the incredible cast, with two actresses absolutely stealing the show amongst fairly stellar competition. Rosamund Pike, as Elspeth, is just a revelation, she plays this totally unlikable, pretty horrible character to perfection, and looks incredible throughout. You totally buy into Elspeth, and it is hard to take your eyes of her whenever she is on the screen – outwardly concerned and caring, but she truthfully doesn’t care a fig for anyone, and that is shown in her treatment of Pamela, the second stand out character, played by Fennell favourite Carey Mulligan.
Pamela is the friend truly in need, who has outstayed her welcome, and yet seems to have no idea. She is almost like a glamorous Gothic witch, in black lace, with a rather savage haircut that gives her the bluntest of fringes. Elspeth invited her to stay thinking she would be interesting merely because she looks so striking, but has grown bored of her and can’t wait for her to go, almost forcing this vulnerable woman out of their home, but smiling as they do it. It is a cold portrait in utter cruelty served with a smile and is devastatingly good.
The rest of the cast are very good too, not least Barry Keoghan as the lead Oliver Quick, a seemingly quiet outsider with totally hidden (and sinister) depths, and the beautiful Jacob Elordi (soon to be seen in Priscilla playing Elvis) as the object of his fixation, Felix Catton. Alison Oliver plays his troubled sister Venetia, with a sheer of bohemian glamour, whilst Archie Madekwe is Farleigh, Felix’s American cousin, who is both jealous of Oliver’s influence, and suspects he may be a viper in the nest. Rounding out the family is the always brilliant, slightly detached Richard E Grant as patriarch Sir James.
Saltburn is glossy, glamorous and slightly hollow, which totally reflects the family at the heart of the story, and the cuckoo who enters, and totally destroys their nest.