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Saltburn: A Cinematic Examination of Upper-Class Dynamics

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nottingham chapter.

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

Last weekend, my friends and I took a trip to the Broadway cinema in the Lace Market to watch the highly anticipated film Saltburn, which has already received stellar reviews on platforms such as TikTok and Letterboxd. Entering the cinema, I had mixed feelings about what I was going to watch, feelings which remained unchanged after leaving. 

Saltburn 2023 takes audiences on a cinematic journey by exploring the lives and lies of the upper class. Its slow pace builds up tension which leaves us audiences on the edges of our seats. The many twists and turns displayed in the film created a mix of confusion and surprise which left me wondering whether I even enjoyed the film. 

It’s not often that directors have the skill to make audiences feel truly uncomfortable– and for that, I congratulate Emerald Fennel. So many of the scenes left me feeling sick to my stomach (bathtub scene- I’m talking to you) and made me speechless upon exiting the cinema. However, I did wonder whether the film’s substance and aim fell short. 

Upon first glance and impression, the film is an exploration of how ridiculous and privileged the lives of upper-class people can be, leading audiences to audibly laugh throughout the first half of the film. I mean playing tennis wearing suits, lounging around your own pond, exploring the massive garden, circulating the stately home…? Talk about picking a struggle. 

However, the twist at the end of the film made me question why all the slander against the upper class was made if the carpet is just going to be dragged out from underneath our feet when in actuality, the blame is actually pinned on the ‘normal’ character. Why shame the upper class and then make them the real victims? It leaves the message falling a bit flat. 

I definitely agree with the hype surrounding the cinematography of the film- the settings, costumes, and general feel of the film are very well constructed. I was very impressed with how beautiful she made each scene look- down to little details and motifs carried throughout. The ‘vibes’ of the film were truly immaculate- the straight-cut scenes, the smaller screen size, the costumes, the colour palettes… the framing of the film was one of my overall favourite things. 

I think I am definitely on the fence about how I feel about Saltburn. These ‘immaculate vibes’ potentially have distracted audiences from the real aim of the film- leading me to question whether the film really was that clever. Sure, the twists were surprising- but they weren’t the most inventive, and I can’t help but feel that the flimsy narrative was cloaked by the film’s beauty.

Overall, I would definitely say that Saltburn is a very impressive film, one which should absolutely be on everyone’s watchlists for this year. I will definitely be watching the film again too- always need a second opinion. Don’t let my mixed opinions stop you from enjoying it too- everyone interprets films differently!  

Overall rating – 3.5 Stars out of 5

Rosa Pessagno

Nottingham '25

Rosa Pessagno is a joint social sec at Her Campus Nottingham. Some of the topics she is interested in include women's rights, fashion, popular culture, and current affairs. Rosa is currently in her second year at the University of Nottingham, studying International Media and Communications. As a media student, Rosa has a good understanding of current world issues, and she can provide a critical opinion on the topics she chooses to write about. Although she has never written for a magazine before, Rosa is excited to start writing articles about things she is passionate about. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, second-hand shopping, going on Pinterest and exploring different genres of music.