Saltburn: How Did Sir James Die? Did Oliver Kill The Dad?

After charting a riveting tale of raw desire and its pitfalls, ‘Saltburn,’ the psychological drama film, concludes with a grand climax, marked by its protagonist’s victory, achieved through however disturbing means. Oliver Quick, Felix Catton’s seemingly sweet friend, stays over at the latter’s family estate, Saltburn, where he’s introduced to the indulgences and hedonisms of society’s higher echelon. However, Oliver’s deep-seated desire for Felix’s life inevitably paints the summer a maddening color as events spiral out of control.

Near the film’s end, Oliver’s efforts to manipulate his way into the Catton family and their wealth, especially the Saltburn Estate, lead to the deaths of Felix and his sister, Venetia. Even though Oliver has to take his leave from the Estate shortly after, his grand plan persists and returns into motion after Sir James, the Cattons’ patriarch’s death. Thus, his demise becomes an instant source of curiosity due to its instrumental role in Oliver’s success. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Sir James Catton’s Death

Sir James Catton never takes particular interest in Oliver and his presence at Saltburn. Unlike his wife and kids, James seems perfectly satisfied in knowing Felix’s friend from a distance in typical father fashion. He’s used to Felix’s penchant for bringing his friends into the family fold, a trait he seems to inherit from his mother, Elspeth. Thus, like Felix and Elspeth’s previous guests, James probably expects Oliver to fade away eventually once his family becomes bored of the man.

However, Oliver is quite unlike any other Saltburn visitor before, perhaps for the better, but mostly for the worse. Oliver has lied about his entire background to gain Felix’s initial attention and continues to build upon his lies to hold that attention. Therefore, he’s more than up to the task when he has to win over Felix’s family as well. Putting on a different mask for each member, as per their likes and dislikes, Felix tries and somewhat succeeds in impressing Elspeth and Venetia.

Likewise, Oliver even manages to dazzle James momentarily after reading up on the history of the older man’s prized artifacts across the house. Yet, a reality built on a lie can only last so long. Eventually, Oliver’s charm runs out once Felix learns about his friend’s deceit. In the ensuing argument, Felix remains firm in his demand that Oliver leave him alone. However, Oliver desperately wants to be a part of Felix’s life, so much so that he’s willing to do it without the man beside him.

As such, Oliver ends up killing Felix and lends a hand in Venetia’s suicide to ensure that no one threatens his place at Saltburn. Nonetheless, he’s soon faced with a problem he can’t homicide his way out of. After their kids’ deaths, the Cattons prepare to grieve. Although Elspeth would prefer to have Oliver by her side in this trying time, James knows better than to let an outsider in during such a vulnerable time. After all, for James, Oliver is still an outsider.

Even though Oliver may have managed to win over the other Cattons, James never gave the boy a chance to get close enough to him to do so. Furthermore, he can also see through some of Oliver’s fake niceties. He knows the Catton wealth is attractive to the man and tries to bribe him into leaving once it becomes clear he has no intentions to. As such, Oliver has no choice but to leave the Estate.

Even though Oliver has been involved in two deaths by now, he knows he can’t go after James without even the cover of his residence at Saltburn. Moreover, unlike Felix and Venetia, James would never let the man close enough to him to allow Oliver to manipulate his demise. Nevertheless, Oliver’s actions may have already planted enough turbulence in the man’s life to last him a lifetime.

In the end, that lifetime ends up lasting a good few years. Still, by 2022, James finally meets his end after dying of some mysterious ailment. Although the plot never explicitly states whether or not Oliver had a direct hand in James’ death, the man wastes no time in benefitting from the death either way.

Yet, it’s most likely that James’ death didn’t have a connection to Oliver. We can conclude the same by noting that Oliver shares no details about James in the gloating speech he delivers to Elspeth as the woman lies on her deathbed. In the end, James dies an unsuspicious death, which happens to be the final piece Oliver needs to bring his grand scheme to fruition.

Read More: How Did Elspeth Get Sick in Saltburn?