Based on a wild --- and yet very true --- story set in the seaside town of Littlehampton, England in the 1920s, WICKED LITTLE LETTERS follows the mystery of who could possibly be sending a bunch of scandalous letters laced with outrageous profanities. It seems no one in this post-war idyllic enclave is safe from the wrath of this anonymous correspondent.


It is Edith Swan (Olivia Colman), the local spinster who still lives with her unyielding father, Edward Swan (Timothy Spall), and pious mother, Victoria (Gemma Jones), who first receives these poison pen letters. Though the language in the notes is coarse and insulting, it’s also unintentionally hilarious. The phrase “foxy ass” gets repeated a lot.


Suspicion as to whom the author might be immediately falls to Rose Gooding (Jessie Buckley), an Irish immigrant known for her salty language. And it doesn’t help that Rose and her young daughter, Nancy (Alisha Weir), live right next door to the Swans --- even sharing bathroom facilities. That plus the fact that Rose’s new boyfriend, Bill (Malachi Kirby), also lives there.


Initially, Edith and Rose are friends, but an altercation at Edward’s birthday party puts an end to that. And soon after, the nasty letters begin. Rose is arrested, but the first and only female police officer in Sussex, Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan), doesn’t believe she’s guilty.


As the daughter of a former copper, now deceased, Gladys uses her detective skills to get to the bottom of who is really responsible for these hurtful communications. With the help of a cadre of local women, she is determined to find the truth.


With a script by British writer-comedian Jonny Sweet and directed by Thea Sharrock, WICKED LITTLE LETTERS is laugh-out-loud funny, while also tackling some bigger issues. Misogyny, free speech, female emancipation are just a few of the problems Sweet manages to showcase. They were all certainly prevalent in 1920s Britain --- and unfortunately still around in 2024.


Sweet instantly had Colman in mind for Edith. She and her writer-producer husband, Ed Sinclair, loved the material and decided to produce WICKED LITTLE LETTERS through their own company, South of the River. Because Colman had recently made THE LOST DAUGHTER with Buckley, she prevailed upon Jessie to take the role of Rose, knowing it would be a good fit. And they are truly marvelous together.


Colman can do just about anything, but here as Edith she is at her best. Her piety in the face of her father is struggling mightily in her desire to be more like Rose. Buckley, on the other hand, is downright hysterical as the foul-mouthed, free-wheeling Rose, who doesn’t care what people think of her. But when her outrageousness almost causes her to lose Nancy, she realizes what’s at stake.


Vasan is a perfect choice to play Gladys. She’s petite, but not lacking in fortitude, with expressive eyes that tell us exactly what she’s thinking --- especially when she’s being subjugated by her fellow police officers.


Spall, too, is ideally cast as Edward. This is an angry man who has lost two sons in World War I and he takes his frustrations out on poor Edith. There is no one better for such a role than this fine actor.


WICKED LITTLE LETTERS is great entertainment. Though this charming little film takes place in the 1920s, many of these issues are still with us today. It’s ultimately refreshing to watch women band together to combat wrongdoing --- then and now.


Opinion: See It Now!




There is much to admire about this small film, so if anyone chooses to pass on it because it is not a blockbuster, that would be a mistake. WICKED LITTLE LETTERS is an absolute gem of a movie --- hilarious in its use of slightly foul language while also addressing issues prevalent today. Call it delightfully profane.


Set in the small town of Littlehampton, England in the 1920’s, Edith Swan (Olivia Colman) has been receiving poison pen letters in the mail on a regular basis. Her next- door neighbor, Rose Gooding (Jessie Buckley), is accused as the writer/sender of these missives and is threatened with sufficient jail time which could separate her from her young daughter, Nancy (Alisha Weir), indefinitely.


But a female policewoman --- the first ever in Sussex --- takes it upon herself to try and prove Rose’s innocence. She is the astute Woman Police Officer Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan), and with the help of a couple of other neighbors, she devises a clever plan which may get Rose off the hook. Officer Moss is also hampered by continuous misogyny from the police duo of Chief Constable Spedding (Paul Chahidi) and Constable Papperwick (Hugh Skinner).


Colman and Buckley are reunited here after their film THE LOST DAUGHTER (2021), but they never were on screen at the same time because they portrayed the same person. In WICKED LITTLE LETTERS they are the focus for most of the narrative and both are impeccable. Colman said of Buckley: “I realized there was no one who would have been better at swearing in this way than Jessie.” And Buckley about the set: “There’s nothing better than a good curse and you know you’ve really hit the jackpot when the whole crew breaks down laughing at something you’ve just said.”


Of course, they have much help from a supporting cast that also includes veteran Timothy Spall as Edith’s controlling father, Edward. At one point he orders Edith to write a verse from the scriptures 200 times as punishment for a minor offense. The repressive home life he has established for Edith is destined to backfire.


Initially we see Edith as a Bible devotee who would seemingly never utter a bad word. So much for first impressions. The Irish Rose, meanwhile, drinks and swears with equal abandon, but she gains our sympathy because of her obvious love for Nancy. And her court appearances win over the audience of townspeople enthralled with the case.


WICKED LITTLE LETTERS is largely, but not wholly, based on a true story that captivated newspaper readers throughout the U.K. The characters are richly drawn, and the performances are equal to the task. Directed by Thea Sharrock with a screenplay by Jonny Sweet, this film is simply perfect. The outstanding editing by Melanie Ann Oliver is critical for the courtroom scenes plus the glimpses of Edith and Rose being neighborly good friends before all the nasty goings-on.


The power of the press a hundred years ago essentially echoes the power of social media today. This story began as a small mention when first published, but as time went on, the case against Rose Gooding garnered major headlines.


WICKED LITTLE LETTERS also demonstrates that a film less than two hours can still be impactful. And its final resolution featuring a last laugh by Edith --- and what a last laugh it is --- is priceless.


Opinion:  Strong See It Now!