The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

Review | ‘Saltburn’ — you are what you eat

Barry+Keoghan+in+Saltburn+%282023%29
Image via IMDB | Courtesy of Prime – © Amazon Content Services LLC
Barry Keoghan in Saltburn (2023)

My fatal flaw is that I talk during movies. I love discussing the film at the moment, nudging my friends when I see some shot I like, giggling at every joke and mentioning every reference I recognize from the art world. I am the worst person to go to the cinema with, but my friends still invited me to watch “Saltburn” over winter break.

“Saltburn” was the first movie that has ever kept me quiet, with my full attention on the screen. I giggled during the first few minutes, winking at my friends over how obvious the romantic tension was between the main characters — Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) and Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi) — excited to see their romantic getaway car scene. Halfway through the movie, I was on the edge of my seat, shaking my leg and holding my breath, as if relaxing would make me miss a second of the film. Even after the movie was over, I could barely eat, and neither could my friends. 

“Saltburn” is director Emerald Fennell’s second film. Fennell is famous for having no worries about documenting and recording the nasty, disgusting parts of obsession, like in her previous film “Promising Young Woman,” which won the Oscar for Best Screenplay Award. “Saltburn” is about those gruesome human feelings of desire against the backdrop of a bright, sunny summer in England’s most gorgeous castle, complete with a library and maze. 

The movie follows the first semester and summer of Oliver Quick, a student at Oxford who, like any other first-year, just wants to be seen. The movie catches him struggling to participate in what some people call the “best years of your life,” unable to make friends in the dining hall and wrestling to please his professors. Enter Felix Catton — tall, attractive and the flame to the moths of the university. Through their college days, they get closer and closer, both of them trying to fit themselves into the other’s life like mismatched puzzle pieces. Yet, there is that strange tension of knowing someone is better than you, cooler than you. After Ollie’s father passes away from a drug overdose, Felix offers to take Ollie away to Saltburn — his family’s estate in Northamptonshire. 

The movie’s trailer sells itself as a summer romance, and you are excited to cry over Ollie’s seemingly unrequited love for Felix, or maybe watch a sad makeout session by the bricks of the manor. Until it’s not, and you’re cringing as you see Ollie drink Felix’s bathwater. Ollie is a firm believer that you are what you eat. 

This movie slowly turns into a tale of disgusting feelings and obsessions that humans feel daily. Ollie is obsessed with Felix to the point where he wishes to become him. He drinks the blood of his lover’s family and, after Felix dies, has sex with the dirt on his grave, hoping that in some insane way, he will become Felix, the sole heir to Saltburn, even if the manor becomes his personal hell. 

Saltburn, the manor and its eccentric owners, represents all that Ollie wants to be, yet also forces him to reckon with all that he is not. The Catton family takes him into their home and grows fond of Ollie. Mrs. Elspeth Catton, played by Rosamund Pike, who makes it very clear from the beginning that she has an “aversion for ugly people,” seems to rely emotionally on Ollie. The aristocrats treat him like a new plaything and have a hard time sharing to the point where Venetia, Felix’s younger sister, mentions that “Felix doesn’t share his toys.” 

For the family, Ollie serves as entertainment, a jester to go with their palace and royal court. The Cattons’ rich friends, even when invited to the estate to celebrate Oliver’s birthday, don’t care to know his name. Oliver is no one. His appearance at Saltburn is a temporary amusement for the Cattons, to be replaced during the next summer.

Saltburn was truly one of the best movies I enjoyed this winter break. It’s full of amazing cinematic shots that reference classical paintings around the estate, dedicated acting by both Keoghan and Elordi, who know how to keep the audience interested even after the movie is over, and a witty script built surrounding its characters — the main plot-drivers. It’s a performative film, searching for the culminating point of obsession, destruction and desire. Ollie’s desire is not even something I would consider materialistic because he doesn’t seem to be searching for the “quickest ways to join a rich family’s will” on Google. He’s searching for himself, or better yet, a grandiose version that he has built for himself, lost within the maze of Saltburn, hiding between the hedges. He lost himself in Saltburn. 

Word of advice — do not watch it with your parents if you do not want an awkward conversation while “Murder on the Dance Floor” by Sophie Ellis-Bextor plays in the background. My mother read the Wikipedia page later on after I was raving about it and almost cried. I think she still added it to her Letterboxd.

About the Contributor
Irene Castillo, Senior Staff Writer
Irene Sofía Castillo Maldonado is a junior history of art and architecture major with a museum studies minor and a Latin American studies certificate. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico, so you might see her long Spanish sentences slip through in her exhibition reviews. Aside from The Pitt News, she’s a researcher for anti-colonial practices in museums and art, as well as a firm coffee shop critic –– cortados are her favorite.