“Dead relly… dead relly… dead relly’s teddy,” drawls Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), pointing out the portraits of his ancestors hanging in his family’s country estate. The last of these catches the eye of his desperately common visiting friend Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) – and surely also any viewers for whom Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, with the flamboyant Sebastian Flyte and his beloved Aloysius tucked under his arm, was a formative read.
“All of Waugh’s charters are based on my family, actually,” Felix glidingly explains – which is writer-director Emerald Fennell acknowledging the debt with an outrageous stage wink. Fennell’s uproarious follow-up to her 2020 debut Promising Young Woman is a sort of Brideshead Regurgitated: a macabre class satire that’s so drunk on its own daring, it all but asks you to hold its hair out of its face while it kneels by the toilet.
For readers uncertain as to whether this qualifies as a recommendation, take it from someone who spent half of the film barking with laughter and the other half watching through his fingers: it is. Set in the mid-noughties, and with the glorious pop soundtrack to prove it, Saltburn is both a riveting cuckoo-in-the-nest psychological thriller and a laser-accurate send-up of the modern English gentry’s crumbly plight.