Saltburn: A Dive into Emerald Fennell’s Psychological Thriller


A New Wave of Suspense: Emerald Fennell, the Academy Award-winning writer and director of “Promising Young Woman,” returned to the big screen in 2023 with “Saltburn.” This psychological thriller, shrouded in secrecy during production, has captivated audiences and ignited discussions on obsession, deception, and the dark side of human nature. 

Let’s delve into the world of “Saltburn,” exploring its plot, themes, critical reception, and its place within the ever-evolving genre of psychological thrillers.

A Tale of Twisted Desires: Set in the early 2000s at a prestigious Oxford University, “Saltburn” follows the story of two students: Patrick Bateman-esque charmer, Dylan (Jacob Elordi), and the shy and introverted, Morton (Barry Keoghan).  

Morton becomes fixated on Dylan, his seemingly perfect life, and his effortless social ease. This fascination quickly spirals into an obsessive desire to be closer to Dylan, no matter the cost.

The Allure and Peril of Identity:  The film delves into the complexities of identity, particularly the ways in which we construct and manipulate it for acceptance. Morton, struggling to find his place in the world, becomes consumed by Dylan’s persona. The narrative blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, leaving viewers questioning the truth behind Dylan’s actions and motivations.

Comparisons and Contrasts:  Critics have inevitably drawn parallels between “Saltburn” and Patricia Highsmith’s classic psychological thriller, “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Both narratives explore themes of obsession and deception, featuring characters who manipulate and exploit others to achieve their desires. 

However, “Saltburn” injects a contemporary edge, exploring the anxieties and pressures of social media and the curated online persona in the early age of the internet.

A Stellar Cast: The film boasts a powerhouse cast led by the rising stars, Barry Keoghan and Jacob Elordi. Keoghan delivers a nuanced performance, capturing Morton’s vulnerability and descent into obsession. Elordi sheds his usual heartthrob persona, portraying a character shrouded in mystery with a darkness lurking beneath the surface.

Fennell’s Vision:  Emerald Fennell, drawing on her success with “Promising Young Woman,” creates a suspenseful and thought-provoking atmosphere. The film’s aesthetics evoke a sense of unease, with its portrayal of the opulent yet claustrophobic college environment and the stark contrasts between Morton’s inner turmoil and Dylan’s seemingly glamorous life.

Critical Reception: A Mixed Bag:  Reviews for “Saltburn” have been divided.  Some critics praise the film’s performances, its exploration of complex themes, and Fennell’s masterful direction.  They laud the film’s ability to keep the audience guessing, creating a sense of unease and suspense that lingers long after the credits roll.

However, others criticize the film’s pacing, finding it slow-burning to a fault. Some feel the ending, while open to interpretation, lacks the punch needed to fully deliver on the film’s promise.

A Discussion Starter:  Despite the mixed reviews, “Saltburn” has undoubtedly sparked conversation. The film raises questions about identity, social pressure, and the lengths people might go to for acceptance. It serves as a chilling reminder of the dangers of obsession and the destructive nature of deception.

Beyond the Big Screen:  The film’s impact extends beyond the cinema.  “Saltburn” has generated online discussions, with fans dissecting plot points, analyzing character motivations, and creating fan theories. The film’s ambiguous ending and exploration of universal themes have fueled passionate debates among viewers.

A Look at IMDb:  As of June 13, 2024, “Saltburn” holds a rating of 7.2 on IMDb. User reviews reflect the critical divide, with some praising the film’s originality and performances, while others criticize its pacing and lack of clarity.  The film’s intriguing premise and talented cast have undeniably captured audience interest, regardless of individual opinions.

A Thrilling Addition to the Genre:  While “Saltburn” may not be a universally acclaimed masterpiece, it stands as a noteworthy addition to the psychological thriller genre. Its exploration of contemporary anxieties, its stellar performances, and Fennell’s bold direction make it a film that lingers in the mind long after viewing.  Whether you find it a suspenseful masterpiece or a slow-burning misstep, “Saltburn” is a film that demands to be discussed.


What is the plot of Saltburn?

Set in early 2000s Oxford, Saltburn follows Morton (Barry Keoghan), a shy student, and Dylan (Jacob Elordi), the epitome of campus cool. Morton becomes fixated on Dylan’s seemingly perfect life, leading him down a path of obsession and manipulation. The film explores themes of identity, deception, and the dark side of desire.

Is Saltburn a remake of another movie?

No, it’s an original screenplay written and directed by Fennell. However, comparisons are drawn to Patricia Highsmith’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” as both explore themes of obsession and manipulation with characters blurring the lines of reality.

How are the performances in Saltburn?

Critics generally praise the performances. Keoghan delivers a nuanced portrayal of Morton’s vulnerability and descent into obsession. Elordi sheds his usual heartthrob image, showcasing a character with a hidden darkness. The supporting cast, including Rosamund Pike as Dylan’s enigmatic mother, further adds depth to the narrative.

What is Emerald Fennell’s vision for Saltburn?

Fennell, building upon the success of “Promising Young Woman,” creates a suspenseful and thought-provoking atmosphere. The film’s aesthetics evoke unease, contrasting the claustrophobic college with Dylan’s seemingly glamorous world.

What are the top reviews on Saltburn’s IMDb page?

Positive reviews laud the film’s ability to keep viewers guessing, with twists and turns that linger long after the credits roll. They praise the performances and Fennell’s masterful direction in creating a suspenseful atmosphere.

What are the common criticisms of Saltburn on IMDb?

Some viewers find the pacing slow, particularly in the first half. Others feel the ending, while open to interpretation, lacks the impact needed to fully deliver on the film’s premise.

Where does Saltburn rank on IMDb?

As of June 13, 2024, Saltburn holds a rating of 7.2 on IMDb, reflecting the mixed critical reception. User reviews show similar divisions, with some praising the film’s originality and others criticizing its pacing and lack of clarity.

Is Saltburn a good film for fans of psychological thrillers?

Yes! It offers a contemporary take on the genre, exploring anxieties of social media and the curated online persona. The film’s ambiguity and exploration of complex themes will appeal to fans who enjoy thought-provoking thrillers.

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