One of my first thoughts coming out of Saltburn was that Felix Catton got out of this really easy. Played by the talented new deal, Jacob Elordi, with charm and ease, a very new look for him (and the killer English accent), one that we haven’t seen before, Felix Catton is the nicest rich boy you’re going to come across in recent cinema. He isn’t simply a shiny exterior devoid of kindness; in fact, he’s the opposite of that. Felix is too nice, which really makes it seem almost deceiving. Felix is the handsome, cool, rich, spoilt life of the party. The guy everyone wants to be with or sleep with. It’s almost as if Oliver’s conniving behavior is the worst thing that could happen to Felix because he didn’t really do anything to deserve it. Was his existence the problem? I don’t think so. I don’t think he ever provoked any sort of reaction from anybody based on his overwhelming indifference to the world. Maybe that was his real problem? He is so naive; he doesn’t know that someone like Oliver could do so much damage to not just him but his family too.
In many ways, Felix is quite the female lead in this film. Hear me out here; he’s the most desirable person on campus. Oliver stalks him for a good amount of the film, then watches him in his bath and fornicates on his grave. It’s simply an exaggerated version of the female experience, no? I suppose it’s a common thing from the homoerotic films of the late 90s and early 2000s. It’s almost as if the female leads were switched out for “crazy” homosexuals for some more scandal. Felix is an object of desire for Oliver, but he’s also simply eye candy for most of the movie. His only purpose is to be charming and delightful and drag the big bad wolf into his home in sheep’s clothing. If this was a romance film, Felix would’ve fallen for Oliver somewhere in the middle of the stalking and obsessive behavior, made to believe it was simply desire (Edward Cullen, anybody?).
We never truly learn anything about Felix; he’s supposed to be Dickie (from The Talented Mr. Ripley), yet we don’t know anything about him except that he’s rich and golden. Even though we’re watching Felix through Oliver’s eyes, it’s such a superficial take (again, female lead energy). Oliver simply desires Felix’s desirability and his wealth. The only other thing I can say about the guy is that he’s kind and naive. For instance, when Felix’s bike breaks down, he simply sits down and leaves it up to fate to find help. Felix goes to Oxford University, but is he good at school? Are his only hobbies going to parties and sleeping around? He’s certainly very nice because he pays for Oliver’s round of drinks at the table, so he doesn’t feel embarrassed when they aren’t even friends yet. Is that just instinctual because he’s so rich, or is it just out of the generosity of his heart? Knowing how nice he is, it could be either. There’s one particular scene that’s a bit of an insight into Felix’s personality when Oliver tries to clean his room for him, but Felix gets angry and says he’ll do it himself. This makes it rather clear that Felix sees Oliver as an equal, not someone beneath him, unlike the rest of his family. This is reiterated when his mother calls Oliver handsome and proceeds to say Felix’s opinions are not trustworthy because he likes everyone.
I did compare Saltburn to The Secret History for two main reasons: the Dark Academia vibe of the whole thing, the big fanciful home, and then the whole fish out of water in an old-money set-up. But there are similarities when it comes to the characters as well. I can’t help but compare Felix to Camilla, the only female character in the group. Considering their obsession with Greek culture, the lines are blurred when it comes to the sexualities of all the characters in The Secret History, and there’s an incestual tendency in the group when they all just want to try something with each other. It’s unsettling, to say the least, but in a similar way, the Cattons are a very strangely sexual family. Although we don’t really see it explicitly when it comes to the parents, they do hint at the idea. Like when Elsbeth says she’s been with women but found the affair too wet, while men are dry (Rosamund Pike needs awards). I suppose Jacob Elordi also has an epicene quality to him; even though he’s a giant, he moves with a fluidity that’s very graceful and soothing to look at, and he leans into this further for Felix because he’s such a calming personality compared to the chaotic background of the film.
To be fair, Oliver isn’t the most reliable narrator. I want to quote Bridgerton and say that Felix is the bane of Oliver’s existence and the object of all his desires. So, there’s only so much of a perception we can have of him. He could secretly be evil, or, who knows, he might’ve been hiding a few personalities in there, but we’d never know because it’s always from Oliver’s perverted viewpoint that we see Felix. Even when Felix dies, he’s wearing golden wings, making him look like a little angel, even though he’s such a gigantic man (it’s so contradictory). It’s an iconic death, I suppose, since that’s how Oliver saw him, even though he poisoned him himself in the end.
Maybe Felix loved Oliver too; maybe that’s why he was so heartbroken to learn that he was lying the whole time. Felix is so lost and confused when Oliver tells him that he’s only been feeding him what he wanted to hear that he has nothing to say in response. He doesn’t know what to do after learning of Oliver’s feelings for him. Earlier in the movie, we see him tell Farleigh that the family accepted him even though he was “different,” referring to his homosexuality. Maybe this is why he feels more cheated like he was so blind to Oliver’s true feelings (Red Riding Hood, for sure). So, I’d say, yes, Felix is simply a victim of mental abuse and then Oliver’s fear. Maybe if Felix hadn’t learned the truth, Oliver may have kept him around like a lap dog to play with occasionally, making it seem like it’s his life, but in truth it’s not.