Exeter, Devon UK • Apr 18, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Screen Review: Wicked Little Letters

Review: Wicked Little Letters

Maya Fernandes reviews Sharrock's chocolate-box comedy, 'Wicked Little Letters,' addressing its humorous take on social commentary.
3 mins read
Written by
WICKED LITTLE LETTERS | Official Trailer (2024)

The latest endeavour from Me Before You (2016) director, Thea Sharrock takes the form of the chocolate-box period comedy, Wicked Little Letters (2023). The film centres Edith Swan (Olivia Colman), a pious spinster, and Rose Gooding (Jessie Buckley), her disruptive Irish neighbour, in the quaint English town of Littlehampton. Based on the true story of the ‘Littlehampton Letters’, Sharrock’s film offers a tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the scandal. 

Based on the true story of the ‘Littlehampton Letters’, Sharrock’s film offers a tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the scandal. 

In a time before social media trolling was possible, Littlehampton became the subject of a House of Commons debate in 1920, when a series of blasphemous anonymous letters began to be sent around the town. Regarding her approach to the scandal, Sharrock explained that the letter-writer’s voice belongs to “a repressed young woman who needs to find a way out of the life that she’s being caged within.” Themes of female disempowerment are nodded to throughout the film, particularly in the case of Edith’s strained relationship with her father (Timothy Spall), and the difficulties that Police Officer Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan) faces in her desire to be taken seriously by her male superiors during the investigation. This exploration of the post-war reality for women, though limited, offers moments of powerful critique amongst the comedic scenes of foul-mouthed obscenity.

This exploration of the post-war reality for women, though limited, offers moments of powerful critique amongst the comedic scenes of foul-mouthed obscenity.

With most of the original letters included in the film itself, the comedy offers a satirical narration of the tale, with a stacked cast featuring the leading duo alongside the likes of Hugh Skinner, Gemma Jones and Jason Watkins. Whilst I won’t spoil the ending for you, Wicked Little Letters can hardly be considered a suspenseful whodunnit as I, like many others in the cinema, predicted the ending from the title credits. However, the film is definitely a funny, light-hearted watch for a rainy day. Set in the early 20th century, its exploration of the socio-criminal phenomenon of the ‘poison pen letter’ is not only wittily humorous but also encourages its audience to reevaluate the ongoing prevalence of social media trolling that continues to dominate the media landscape over a century later. 

I saw the film with my mum at the Picturehouse in Exeter last week and the rowdy atmosphere of the theatre contributed to the entertaining experience. The potty-mouthed dialogue of Jonny Sweet’s scriptwriting, alongside the excellent performances from both Colman and Buckley made for a satisfying combination. Whilst Wicked Little Letters doesn’t offer anything revolutionary to the world of cinema, it most certainly offers an insight into a British 1920s conservative society, and its farcical, small-town feel makes for a very entertaining, profanity-fuelled winter watch.

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