Wicked Little Letters (2024) | Review

Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley delight in a well-rounded portrait of everything wrong with the archaic vision of ‘Britishness’.

Wicked Little Letters (2024) | Review
Source: The Movie Database

Synopsis: In the British town of Littlehampton, a housewife receives repeated vulgar letters. After initially suspecting her boisterous neighbour, a policewoman investigates further.

Director: Thea Sharrock
Cast: Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Anjana Vasan, Timothy Spall, Malachi Kirby

I must admit that the trailer for Wicked Little Letters got me on board in record time. The prospect of hearing 1920s Brits aghast at having to read phrases like “you want fucking in the noseholes” is right up my alley. And away from the clear hook of the film, there is thankfully a well-rounded portrait of everything wrong with the archaic vision of ‘Britishness’ — from racism to sexism, regressed emotions, smothering parenting, and the street-level gossip that can ruin a family’s reputation.

Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley are perfect dance partners. Colman is the good-hearted Christian Edith Swan who is shocked by the repeated delivery of explicit letters but claims to rise above them. Meanwhile Buckley delivers energy, glee, anger, and sincerity in every scene as Rose Gooding, Edith’s chaotic neighbour. Locking everything down with a stern helping of ‘stick in the mud’ is Timothy Spall as Edith’s father, Edward. Early scenes risk setting Edward up as the eternal straight man to the film’s hilariously written letters, but Spall puts real tension and anger into enough of his scenes to make Edward credible.

The intersection of these three gives the film a surprisingly ample amount of ground to cover. Edward sees Rose as the epitome of everything changing (and therefore wrong) in post-WWI Britain. Edward also clings onto Edith as his last remaining child following wartime casualties, though with a stifling, religious grasp. And clearly something in Rose’s personality attracts Edith, even as the letters continue to arrive. These dynamics keep quite a simple story interesting and effective. One story beat is almost laughably unnecessary but the rest make this a peppy little comedy.

Source: The Movie Database

Credit should also go to the rest of the film’s cast. Anjana Vasan is Gladys Moss, Littlehampton’s first policewoman who adds another sign of the changing times to Edward’s list of complaints. Vasan plays Gladys tough and resilient amid her dismissive police colleagues, and she makes an entertaining spearhead for a ragtag group of locals who investigate both Edith and Rose. Joanna Scanlan and Lolly Adefope in particular are expectedly great given their wonderful work on British TV.

Wicked Little Letters doesn’t finish as comedically strong as it starts although it is short enough to keep its humour relatively fresh until the end. Two great performers keep things from ever getting boring and it has clear ties to the anonymous trolling world of social media today while transporting us back to another time when things seemed to be ‘going to the dogs’ as Spall’s Edward would put it. The rest of the film’s components all function well enough for the scale and expectations of this kind of film. The cinematography overall is steady with a few moments of excellent framing while the score is far from adventurous (cue the hits of investigative plodding, jailhouse lamenting, and comedy montage zippiness).

But am I looking for industry-pushing work there? No. With this kind of movie, I’m listening to the audience as much as I am the film and my screen was healthily busy and filled with laughter. Far from the ‘big screen experience’ that is pushed to right the sea of blockbuster revenues, I recommend you see this at the cinema simply for the group experience. Find as old of an audience as you can and watch as countless members chuckle at the sight of someone who once played Queen Elizabeth II being called “a sad, stinky bitch.”

Source: YouTube