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What We’re Watching: Is Emerald Fennell’s ‘Saltburn’ the most shocking film of the year?

From the same director of an amazingly intense film, "Promising Young Woman," comes another feature from breakout director Emerald Fennell. Released in theaters Nov. 17, "Saltburn" is another mind-bending film that many people expected to be a harrowing love story between two British college students — at least, that's what the trailer would have you believe. Many viewers get the vibe that it's not your typical love story but rather a story about obsession and wealthy depravity. 

However, even that trailer couldn't prepare me for what I would witness. The film follows a simple premise: a timid college student named Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) struggles to find his place and runs into popular boy Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi) after an unexpected tragedy happens in Oliver's family. Felix offers for Oliver to come stay with his family in their private mansion in a secluded area known as Saltburn. 

The plot is pretty formulaic, and you may think you can imagine what will happen. While watching, a bunch of clichés and tropes entered my mind. However, each minute of the film changed my expectations completely. The moment I thought a scene was going one way, it would veer off the cliff in the opposite direction. Honestly, the film is difficult to put into words, and it's hard to give a concrete reason to see it before it leaves theaters. At its core, it's a story of revenge and obsession. It explores what love and jealousy can drive a person to do and how deprived wealthy people can be. 

As a film that takes place primarily in an affluent British college and private decadent mansion, the aesthetic is also a sight to behold. The lighting is brooding and succulent, with reds, blues and purples shrouding the film in a dark, luscious light. The film's cinematography is also eye-catching. The use of mirrors in some scenes creates beautiful shots and the manipulation of the camera develops some very interesting perspectives that enhance the film. I don't want to divulge all of the scenes I found really gorgeous so as not to spoil them because it's better to see them first-hand. 

The movie overall is jarring, startling and horrifyingly stunning. It's cheesy to say it's a feast for the eyes, but it's quite a sufficient way to describe the film. Even after seeing it twice in theaters, it's a film that still heavily occupies my mind. The soundtrack plays on a loop in my head, and the aesthetic flashes like a camera in my eyes. The performances from the entire cast are wonderful, especially from Keoghan and Elordi. They bounce off one another so well and play the dark and light characters almost perfectly. They are stark opposites who capture the screen and are addicting to watch as their relationship evolves throughout the film.

I highly recommend the film to anyone interested in the absurd, or anyone who wants to see a film that breaks your expectations and plays with your mind. I can guarantee you will leave the film with eyes widened and asking plenty of questions. 

Mia Ashby is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Mia by emailing her at

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