… …
What is Saltburn about? | The Definitive Explanation

Like Saltburn?

Join our movie club to get similar movie recommendations and stories delivered to your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We hate bad email too, so we don’t send it or share your email with anyone.

Reader Interactions


  1. Was Oliver in love with Felix, or infatuated with him romantically/ sexually? A lot of Oliver’s actions seem performative and intended to misrepresent his feelings and desires to fool anyone who’s looking (grieving/ interest in artefacts) but in the scenes with Oliver and the bathwater, and the grave, no-one is watching, so why does Oliver do these things? Is it about power? Or lust?

    • In the very end of the movie this is explained, I think. Ollie finally says he did love him, but follows up immediately with “but sometimes I hated him.” He’s a megalomaniac, but he does love Felix, he’s just not in love with him. To be in love with someone, you have to care for them outside of yourself, and Ollie wasn’t capable of it. He hates the hold that Felix has on him, sexually/emotionally, and monetarily, specifically because it clashes with the power that he feels he should have.

  2. Great article, but you have a few errors. Ollie inherited the entire estate. In the final scene, Ollie danced through the house naked. You said Felix for both. Just a minor edit ☺️

    • Thanks!

  3. I may have missed something, but I wondered what happened to Farleigh! I know he was sort of ex-communicated after Felix’s death and left Saltburn, but I really thought he’d come back into the picture, especially after Elsbeth moved Ollie into Saltburn. He knew Oliver was up to no good after the stunt he pulled after they slept together, I’m surprised he wasn’t plotting his own revenge.

    • I also feel that Farleigh was a poorly managed character. Although elitist his suspicions of Oliver were warranted. Why does he not fight back and defend his ground when being framed by Oliver twice. I think an alternate and more satisfying ending would have been Farleigh killing Oliver after his naked “risky business” dance. Furthermore I disagree with the reading that Oliver yearned for the largess of the Catton’s. I believe Olivers motivations were not materialistic but more born in a sociopathic god complex and getting off on manipulating people as if pawns on a chess board. Oliver never craved riches he craved the enjoyment of being a puppet master of the Aristocracy.

      • It would have been wild if Saltburn had gone full The Departed lol

        I think it’s both. Oliver definitely was a sociopath with a god complex. But there’s so much made about the house. The movie title is even the name of the estate. And the final dance is about his possession of the house. And Farleigh’s big climactic speech to Oliver is about how Oliver will never have the house or get to come back to the house. Even if Oliver doesn’t want the house because he’s not materialistic, he wants the house because of what the house represents—-power. It doesn’t feel right to ignore all of that.

    • Right? It seemed that the final blow up after Felix’s death kind of broke Farleigh. He knew at that point that Ollie was not to be messed with.

  4. How did Felix’s father die? I don’t recall any specifics about his death. Was he aware of Oliver’s manipulative nature, and that his wife was a bit too attracted to Oliver, to the point that he offers to pay him off of their lives? Lastly, what was the issue with the antique plate and Farleigh? Did Oliver steal it and had Farleigh blamed for it?

    • I thought it was implied suicide. Ollie knew it would happen, he just needed to wait.

    • Oliver seduced Farleigh so that he could get access to his phone and use it to send the e-mail to Sotheby’s about having the antiques to sell.

      This framed Farleigh as a would-be thief who was planning on selling some of the family’s priceless artefacts.

      Being as well-connected as they are, the family (Sir James) has friends at Sotheby’s who immediately knew it was his objects being referred to and warned him. This is why they booted Farliegh out.

    • The ninth Oliver slept with Farleigh, he used Farleigh’s phone to send the email about the plate.

      And I think the dad just passed away from old age and grief.

  5. When they “slept together” and Farleigh actually….SLEPT…you see Oliver grab his cell phone. Remember, the family said he contacted Sothebys saying he came into the plates and was wondering their value. That person, being a friend of the father, informed him. And it was easy for the family to believe because…it came from his phone (who would believe a person saying “my phone was hacked”?), and also, he had previously just asked Felix for more money (for his moms living situation). But what’s more confusing is this. Why would they have invited him BACK to that final party???

    • I don’t think they invited him back, my understanding was that he had snuck onto the grounds using his costume as a disguise. But you’re right, the family wasn’t surprised to see him when they found Felix, so maybe I read it wrong… or maybe there was just too much going on for them to care that he was there?

      • I think it’s probably a bit of both lol.

    • I think they invited him back because of the optics. It would look bad if he wasn’t there. Or they would have to explain why he wasn’t there. It’s the same reason Felix didn’t cancel the party after finding out about Oliver. It highlights that need to keep up appearances.

  6. I was glad to find this – forum – about a movie so poorly described on the cable network and rather poorly understood here. This is about a murderer,
    as horrible as Charlie Manson or the Boston Strangler. I fear that because he is using sex to destroy people – that is the main story here Mr. Lambert – we are overwhelmed and find some other easier to manage backstory like… oh… class struggle in England. I fear that in this discussion of the classes some kind of justification for Oliver is occurring. Also, the clarity of the descriptions… Mr. Lambert, writes ‘we assume he was responsible…’ for Elsbeths death. no we dont assume. in this case, we know he killed two, three, now we wonder if he didnt take out Pamela in London? somehow? it’s obvious that he has made sure Elsberth was incapacitated so he could take over the estate – so we don’t ‘assume’. we know. he didnt just kill her he tortures her. Though, I didn’t understand what happened with Sir dad, he seemed caught somehow when Oliver refused to leave but… what was it happened? That one I could see we assume he may have killed him.
    It does not matter if Oliver loved Anyone. it does not drive the script because clearly its a picture of someone who cannot love, as he says himself. But he can hate. And that he does well.

    I am upset to see here a kind of gleeful delight of Oliver, or the reasons for murder. I hate this movie and wish Amazon would have provided more than this great film maker mades a ..what did they say .. naughty??? – a naughty film by an award winning director.

    And the questions about the script – like why WOULD they invite him back for the final party – (yes indeed!) we are all left with and just prove this is a poorly written movie that disturbs and confuses. It’s easy to turn midstream and make people wonder what POV you are representing, and in filmmaking its just cheap and frankly disturbing. Sure, Iknow they are showing folks who just dont want to defy convention of their family rules… or class..so lets take him back to our house so he can kill us all. but I am disturbed, the images. still floating about and That is not a good film. I wish i had not seen it. I hate ugliness. I have since I was a young girl.

    • and your script is coming out when?

    • Hi Rickie!

      The murder and use of sex is what’s happening. And they’re obvious. No one misses that those things happen. But why murder? Why use sex? That’s the stuff that needs illuminated. Because at the end of the day this is an artistic work that’s trying to say something about the world and the human condition.

      And I specifically said the movie isn’t about class struggle lol.

      I used “we assume he was responsible” because we don’t see the action on screen like we do with Felix and Venetia. Elspeth wasn’t necessarily young. It’s possible she caught illness or had a disease. We know that’s 99.99% not the case. But because we don’t see it on screen, we can’t 100% say for certain it was Oliver. That’s all I was allowing for. If I said “We know Elspeth is ill because Oliver did something” then someone else would leave a comment that says “Actually, Chris, we don’t know that.”

      The dad paid Oliver to go away. That was 2007. James passes in 2022. If he had something to do with it, there’s no real indication in the film. It’s likely that he had nothing to do with it but when he found out about it decided to prey upon Elspeth so found out where she had gotten an apartment and started frequenting a cafe he knew she went to.

      There was no gleeful delight of Oliver. There’s just a literary analysis. If there’s any glee, it’s in discussion the nuance of narrative art.

      Why do they invite him back to the party? The Cattons embody traditional aspects of wealth and nobility. Part of that is how much they keep up appearances. If they were to cancel the party, it would look bad. It would cause gossip. Elspeth would feel embarrassed. Felix is also embarrassed. He brought in this pretender and sold the family on Oliver. How would he explain to everyone what actually happened? I believe Felix even has a line about how Oliver will still attend the party because Elspeth would lose it if Oliver wasn’t there. Regardless, it’s the fatal flaw of the traditional. Their need to keep up appearances provides Oliver the opportunity he needs to tear the family apart.

      I’m not saying you need to like the movie or that it’s even good or anything like that. Just responding to some of the points.

  7. Re what happened to Sir James: When Oliver meets Elspeth (not ‘Elsbeth’) in the café and he offers his condolences on Sir James’s passing, she says something like she was surprised he ‘took so long’ – to me this suggests that he took his own life, and that she thought he would have done so sooner, given the trauma of losing both his children. It’s another one of Elspeth’s casually monstrous comments…
    Re Farleigh and the plates: The plates were never actually stolen, Oliver just sent an email using Farleigh’s phone enquiring about selling the plates, to make it look like Farleigh intends to steal them to solve his financial problems. We see how Oliver laid the groundwork for this plan earlier on – when Farleigh calls the plates ugly, but Oliver admires them and discusses their provenance etc with Sir James (we also see that he has been reading up on the contents of the house at night, so that he’s ready for these sorts of conversations and can ingratiate himself with his hosts). This conversation ensures that Sir James knows that Farleigh knows the plates are valuable, so it’s more convincing when Farleigh is framed for trying to sell them…

  8. I find it surprising that no comparison has yet been made with the film “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. Like Oliver, Tom Ripley is from a “normal” background, aspires to join the upper class, manipulates and lies, falls in love with a dandy and party boy – whom he kills in the end, as those who find out about him. Venetia indirectly confirms this when she suspects Oliver of wearing Felix’s aftershave and clothes. (And Venice is also one of the key locations of the movie.)

    In both films, the protagonist’s form of “love” for his victim is more a form of insane obsession: intoxicating, poisonous, full of envy and ultimate greed.

    • Yes, crossed with Brideshead Revisited.

      It’s unoriginal, uninspired, shallow and derivative, just using ‘shock’ tactics to get press attention and social media views.

      Will be forgotten by this time next year, thankfully.

  9. I read some reviews of the movie. By far, this is the best and deepest one. I just loved it and it made me change my opinion about the film. Thanks a lot, Chris!

    • Appreciate it, Cecilia! That’s what we aim for.

  10. Thank you for the article. Unfortunately it’s nearly impossible to read it because of the ads and the page refreshing in order to display other ads. So frustrating and vulgar.

    • Ah, I’m sorry about that. From my experience, it doesn’t happen all the time. But when it does… Unfortunately, we’re such a small two-man operation that ads are the only thing keeping us going. Hopefully soon we’ll have enough earning articles that we can start to scale back a little bit.

Write a response