Skip to main content
The Independent Critic

Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Anjana Vasan, Gemma Jones, Eileen Atkins, Timothy Spall, Hugh Skinner, Alisha Weir
Thea Sharrock
Jonny Sweet
Rated R
102 Mins.
Sony Classics

 Movie Review: Wicked Little Letters 
Add to favorites

While the rest of the world was lining up to watch the latest mediocre Godzilla flick, I was finding myself joyously entertained by Thea Sharrock's delightful and humorous Wicked Little Letters. 

Set in the 1920s in Littlehampton Sussex, Wicked Letters tells a true tale that seems almost absurd by today's standards. Scribe Jonny Sweet taps into that absurdity. Edith (Olivia Colman) lives with her parents (Timothy Spall and Gemma Jones). Theirs is a Christian household we're told, though the only real evidence of such is the fierce sense of repression to the point of suffocation. Edith is an adult who is still very much treated like a child. One can sense a seismic shift when Rose (Jessie Buckley) moves in next door. A recent widow due to the war, Rose has a Black boyfriend (Malachi Kirby) and a daughter (Alisha Weir). Rose is everything Edith is not - free-spirited, mouthy, incredibly sexual, and unafraid of speaking her opinion. The two strike up something resembling a friendship, cautious yet obvious as Edith is both horrified and intrigued. 

Wicked Little Letters centers around exactly that. Edith and other townsfolk begin to receive wicked letters fully of hilarious profanities, a crime then for what would be a political campaign now. Being both an immigrant Irish woman and a foul-mouthed one at that, Rose is charged with the crime based entirely on circumstantial evidence.The film kicks off with Edith's accusation and subsequent meeting with the police that provides all of us her backstory. The local police are incompetent at best and immediately dismissive of any possible culprit beyond Rose with the exception of one - Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan) - who happens to be their first police woman even if she is mostly relegated to doing "woman's work." Before long, Gladys becomes convinced that Rose may not be the culprit, a possibility increasingly supported by other women in the town. 

As a fun fact, the character of Gladys is, in fact, based upon the town's real first female police officer. 

Wicked Little Letters is a perfect example of how an absolutely terrific ensemble can elevate otherwise fairly predictable material. This is not to criticize Jonny Sweet's script. The story itself is fairly fundamental and predictable - Sweet's script finds tremendous humor throughout and more than a little bit of heart. However, it's watching this cast work so beautifully together that makes Wicked Little Letters such a lovely film. 

You can't help but adore Rose and feel rather badly for Edith. By the time Gladys begins to launch her own investigation, we're invested in both chracters and intrigued to discover where this all goes. Wicked Little Letters is hilariously naughty in a British sort of way, both Colman and Buckley manage to show us everything and nothing simultaneously. The two, as you may recall, played older and younger versions of the same character in the acclaimed The Lost Daughter and they possess such a remarkable chemistry that whenever they are engaged onscreen together you can't help but be hypnotized by it. 

While Wicked Little Letters feels absurd, it also feels remarkably timely and relevant to today's social media experience. 

Colman is, as seems always true, absolutely extraordinary here in showing us everything we love about Edith and everything comes out of the repressive regime called family in which she lives. Buckley, as well, makes sure that we absolutely understand Rose and even, absolutely yes, adore her parenting. 

Among the supporting players, Timothy Spall and Gemma Jones are humorously horrifying as the Victorian Christian parents from hell. Anjana Vasan is wondrous as Gladys, the smartest person in the room in just about every room she's in yet held back by a culture that considers her inferior. Alisha Weir is also wonderful as Rose's daughter as she infuses the film with a layer of heart and possibility. 

Ben Davis's lensing for the film is extraordinary in capturing all the finer nuances of this British mystery caper meets social statement. Melanie Ann Oliver edits in such a way that we find ourselves holding for all the heart and all the humor the film can muster. 

Wicked Little Letters is a lovely little film that tells a story with which you're probably not familiar. You'll find yourself, as I did, rushing over to the internet to learn even more about this absurd but true story and these remarkable characters. With a stellar ensemble bringing her vision to life, Thea Sharrock has crafted one of 2024's most entertaining indie gems. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic