Last Updated on January 3, 2024 by Dexter Roona
Saltburn is a darkly comedic film that involves a series of deaths that strategically contribute to the main character Felix’s master plan and it’s blowing up on social media.
When Oliver Quick an Oxford student is invited to his friend Felix’s family’s wealthy estate, Saltburn, for a summer vacation, he becomes entangled in a world of eccentric characters and chaotic events as his deepening obsession with Felix comes to a head.
Saltburn is a dark psychological drama where multiple deaths occur within the story, with each death playing a vital role in advancing Oliver Quick’s (Barry Keoghan) master plan. The film boldly delves into themes of lust and desire, class differences, and unhealthy obsession.
Felix takes Oliver under his wing and invites Oliver to spend a long hot summer with him and his family at their country estate, Saltburn.
During his stay, Oliver’s true nature begins to emerge as he infiltrates the inner workings of Felix’s family which leads to Oliver’s triumphant ending dance through the Saltburn estate to Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Murder on the Dancefloor”.
NB: There are some major spoilers ahead. If you haven’t watched Saltburn yet and you keep reading then… you have been warned!
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Saltburn Deaths Explained – Everyone Who Dies (And Why)
Jeff Quick – Oliver’s Father
The demise of Oliver’s father Jeff Quick is the first initial death in Saltburn but it is not seen on screen, but is the setup for Oliver’s master plan. Oliver tells Felix that his alcoholic father has passed away after cracking his head open on the pavement during a drunken session.
This prompts Felix to invite a grieving Oliver to spend the summer with him and his family at Saltburn. But the death of Jeff Quick turns out to be a huge lie that is discovered after Felix takes a call from Oliver’s mother who is ringing to wish her son a happy birthday. Felix decides to take Oliver on a surprise trip to see his mother whom he has not seen for some time. It is during this trip that Oliver’s lies are revealed, with Felix discovering that Oliver’s father is still alive and that his mother is not a drug addict after all.
It is Oliver’s lies and manipulation of Felix that bring Oliver to Saltburn, a crucial step in his plan.
A betrayed Felix tells Oliver that it is now time for him to leave Saltburn after the pre-planned birthday party for Oliver that Felix has already arranged. A distraught Oliver asks Felix if they could still be friends at school with Felix replying that they cannot. Oliver makes one final attempt to salvage their friendship after tracking Felix down in the garden maze but comes to realize that he has lost Felix’s trust forever. It is at this moment that he takes Felix’s life to secure his position at Saltburn.
Oliver hands Felix a bottle of champagne, and he takes a swig. The next scene brings us to a new day and the realization for the family that Felix has died.
Felix’s death is officially seen as an accidental overdose but is a premeditated act of murder on Oliver’s part. Felix’s death ensures Oliver’s place at Saltburn, as Felix can no longer expose him as the fraud he is.
Venetia Catton – Felix’s Sister
Next to die is Venetia. Venetia dies shortly after the demise of Felix. When Venetia is taking a bath Oliver visits her to comfort her. But Venetia is now no longer warm or friendly towards Oliver and to some degree blames Oliver for her brother’s overdose.
A grief-stricken Venetia tells Oliver how she felt sorry for him when she witnessed him crying during Felix’s funeral. She sees his reaction as odd as he had only known Felix for six months. Venetia has become suspicious of Oliver leading her to declare that Oliver is not part of the Catton family and has no place at Saltburn.
The new day reveals Venetia dead in the bathtub having seemingly taken her own life. It is revealed during the end scenes of the film that Oliver had placed the razor blades on the side of the bath for Venitia but it remains unclear if Venetia takes her own life. She was an individual who suffered from mental health issues but there is also the possibility that Oliver inflicted the fatal wounds.
The death of Venetia ensured Oliver’s place at Saltburn and left her parents without an heir to inherit their Saltburn estate and vast fortune.
Sir James Catton – Felix’s Father
Following the sad loss of his daughter distraught James Catton becomes increasingly convinced that Oliver has developed an unhealthy connection with his wife Elspeth and asks him to leave Saltburn so that the remaining family can grieve. Oliver replies that he wants to do what is best Elspeth to maintain his place at Saltburn.
James attempts to buy Oliver’s compliance to his request by asking how much it would take for him to leave. The details of Oliver’s departure remain unclear. We don’t know if Oliver did accept a payoff or if he was forcefully removed. Much later Oliver learns of Sir James Catton’s death allowing Oliver to pick up where he left off and begin to manipulate his way back to the Saltburn estate once more.
Lady Elspeth Catton – Felix’s Mother
During a chance meeting (was it chance?) Oliver encounters Lady Elspeth Catton. It is an encounter that leads Lady Elspeth to welcome Oliver back into her life with the hopes that they can bring each other happiness.
Saltburn’s big twist comes as it is revealed that Oliver has been talking about Elspeth throughout the narration of the film.
Now ill in bed Oliver reveals to Elspeth how he had orchestrated his relationship with her son Felix, aiming to elevate himself to her social class.
A flashback reveals that Elspeth has signed over the Saltburn estate and her vast fortune to Oliver upon her death. Oliver’s confession continues as he admits to masterminding the murders of Felix and the death of Venetia. He states that “accidents” are for the rich, and that people like him must work for their success. He then rips out Elspeth’s breathing tube, marking the final kill in his quest to take control of the Saltburn estate and the Catton fortune.
In the movie’s final scene, Oliver dances naked through the estate, to Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Murder on the Dancefloor” claiming it as his own.
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