Wicked Little Letters

Director: Thea Sharrock
Starring: Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Anjana Vasan, Joanna Scanlan, Eileen Atkins and Timothy Spall
Distributor: StudioCanal
Runtime: 100 mins. Reviewed in Mar 2024
Reviewer: Peter W Sheehan
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Strong coarse language

This British-French production is based on a true story of an investigation of the identity of the person, who sent outrageous letters to people in a seaside town in England in the 1920s.

People in a UK seaside village start receiving profane letters in their mail and are outraged. The letters are obscene, and a number of them pointedly target Edith Swan (Colman), a woman in the town who is known to be deeply conservative and religious. Suspicions fall on Rose Gooding (Buckley) as the letters continue and their profanity increases. Rose is a rowdy Irish migrant, who is an easy suspect. Rose and Edith live next to each other and are warring neighbours. Edith is an uptight woman who lives with a demanding father (Spall), and Rose is a boisterous, radical single mother, who engages in intimate activities loud enough for Edith to hear through her thin walls.

The film reunites Colman and Buckley after their 2021 tense, psychological drama, The Lost Daughter, directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal. In this film, police officer Gladys Moss (Vasan) gets suspicious and takes it on herself to try and find the person writing the ‘wicked little letters’.

She knows that Rose risks losing the custody of a child who depends on her, if she is found guilty. Rose is foul-mouthed and reacts to being charged with the crime. The anonymous letters evoke national attention, however, when Rose goes to trial. But all is not right in the evidence coming forward, and Gladys and some of the women in the town do some private investigation of their own.

The film offers a strong cast to solve the mystery, and the strength of the casting and Sharrock’s style of direction turn the film into a ribald comedy.

Buckley and Colman pair well, and enjoyment of the film rests primarily in comic appreciation of the role they play in meeting the demands of the film’s two main characters.

Rose and Edith speak coarsely at times, and the comedy works best when they insult each other. However, the profanity of what is in the letters does considerable battle with the tension that lies at the core of the mystery.

This is film with a good ensemble cast, which steers away from challenging viewers on a range of social, age, and racial issues which might have been ripe for further comment. For the most part, the movie has been directed to provide an entertaining, easy watch, and it does so with the help of ribald film credits that close the movie.

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