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danielcollins
7th October 2023

Saltburn review: LFF opens to a bang with maximalist class thriller | LFF 2023

Emerald Fennell’s sophomore feature tackles class and privilege in a bold maximalist vision for LFF’s opening night film
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Saltburn review: LFF opens to a bang with maximalist class thriller | LFF 2023
Photo: Saltburn @ London Film Festival

As the red carpet is filled with stars at London’s Southbank, the London Film Festival (LFF) extends its reach beyond the capital into ten cinemas around the UK. Amongst them is Manchester’s resident cinema HOME. Shown to a sold-out audience, Saltburn opens the festival kickstarting its limited selection of LFF titles.

Like a champagne cocktail spiked with a drop of ecstasy, Emerald Fennell’s sophomore feature dissects decadence and class with a bold colour palette and a distinctly maximalist style. Oliver, played by an ever-unsettling yet lightly enticing Barry Keoghan, arrives at Oxford and immediately finds himself on the outside of the social circle. Initially played for comedy and later morphed into something altogether more disturbing, the film heightens these social barriers and portrays the way that class and privilege affect university life.

On the other side of the coin is Felix (Jacob Elordi), a man who seemingly knows everyone and has had everything handed to him on a silver platter – being the literal son of a Sir. Nevertheless, slowly but surely Felix and Oliver become friends and, over one crazy summer, Oliver finds himself staying at the palatial mansion of Saltburn. A bold tale of class warfare follows that recalls everything from The Killing of a Sacred Deer to Love Actually

Here, Fennell creates a new vision of the epic: one soaked in bright colours, disco ballads and snarky comments. It’s a film that will turn some people off but, if you go along with it, is deliciously rewarding in its playfulness. However, as it maintains its mostly light tone throughout, when it goes for bigger moments of pathos it doesn’t quite succeed in reaching the emotional heights that the filmmaking deserves. Despite providing ripe fuel for comedy, certain side characters feel somewhat underdeveloped as the film focuses on Oliver for almost every frame. 

Having said that, for a film with such bold ambitions, it’s almost a miracle that it comes across this coherently. Bringing together ideas as broad as working-class fetishization to queer desire, Saltburn delivers upon its promises and more with a tone that sways from unsettling thriller to camp comedy. 

3/5

Saltburn will be released in cinemas on November 17 2023.

Daniel Collins

Daniel Collins

Head film editor and writer for The Mancunion.

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