Wicked Little Letters (2023) – Film Review

Wicked Little Letters Film Review

Director: Thea Sharrock
Cast: Jessie Buckley, Olivia Colman, Timothy Spall
Certificate: 15

By Sarah Morgan

If bad language upsets you, then give Wicked Little Letters a wide berth.

It has all the hallmarks of one of those cosy British movies, where the sun always shines, the streets are spotless and everyone lives in bucolic bliss. Well, until the characters begin to speak, that is.

Wicked Little Letters Film ReviewMy maternal grandparents would have tuned in thinking it was a ‘lovely film’, but would have been disgusted by the potty-mouths of the main protagonists. It does come as something of a surprise to hear so many swear words and ‘blue’ phrases, but it’s where much of the humour lies in the screenplay. In fact, it could be argued that it relies too much on such things to generate its laughs.

“Ageing spinster”

Nevertheless, it’s always good to see Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley on screen, and they work well together here. The pair have appeared in the same movie before, albeit playing the same character at different ages in The Lost Daughter, for which Colman received an Oscar nomination.

Here she tackles the role of Edith Swan, an ageing spinster living with her parents (Timothy Spall and Gemma Jones) in 1920s Littlehampton. She has been receiving a series of poison pen letters that have horrified her loved ones and scandalised the town.

The chief suspect is the Swans’ neighbour, free-spirited Irish single mother Rose Gooding (Buckley), thanks in no small part for her passion for booze, brawling and swearing. The police promptly arrest her, but as she prepares to stand trial, female police officer Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan) smells a rat and sets out to find the real writer, against the wishes of her condescending male superiors.

Wicked Little Letters Film Review

“Verbal sparring”

Incredibly, the plot is based on a true story and is well-handled by director Thea Sharrock from a script by comedian Jonny Sweet, who also makes a brief appearance as a newspaper reporter.

Joanna Scanlan, Lolly Adefope, Eileen Atkins, Hugh Skinner and Jason Watkins also have small roles, but this is Colman and Buckley’s film – their verbal sparring in a scene towards the end is worth watching it for alone.

The screenplay also deftly covers a number of issues without feeling laden with intent.

Sadly, the disc’s special features let it down a little. There are some interviews with the cast and crew, but they’re rather scant and repetitive – it’s obvious they were all recorded at the same time and simply edited together in slightly different ways.

Blu-ray extras:
  • Frenemies
  • Trolling in the Twenties
  • True Story
Wicked Little Letters is out now on Blu-ray and DVD

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