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  • Writer's pictureJamie

Wicked Little Letters - Review

Wicked Little Letters is a classic British comedy, slotting itself amongst the ever growing catalogue of legacy British actors coming in and delivering quintessentially British dialogue in an unequivocally British setting. 

This film is all about language, not quite the flowery language I have used in my intro, more in the vein of crude and creatively insulting. Letters filled with insults sent back and forth during a time when Xbox Live wasn’t rife with nine year olds screaming much harsher slurs into their headsets. Both Olivia Coleman and Jessie Buckley were born to insult each other, playing their respective parts so well and being surrounded by a strong supporting cast that boost the comedy and broaden the scope of the world. 

Edith Swan (Olivia Coleman) lives her life according to God, while living with her parents, Edward (Timothy Spell) and Victoria (Gemma Jones). Their neighbour, Rose Gooding (Jessie Buckley) moved recently to the road from Ireland. She is a loud and outspoken member of the community, rubbing some people the wrong way with her brash language and heavy drinking. We’re given an insight into Edith and Rose’s relationship as they used to be close friends, with an incident at a party causing a rift in their friendship and a motivation for the letters that Edith has begun receiving. 

We open the story on the 19th letter coming into the house and being read by Edith and her family. We join the story as the final straw is reached and Edward plans to pursue legal action against Rose. 

The story from then on follows the trial and the “whodunnit” of it all, landing on a conclusion with shock and awe to be had. Around that, we have side stories of female police officers and the repression that people can feel growing up in a conservative or religious household. 

The most prominent side story is one of Rose as a mother to Nancy (Alisha Weir) and how her parenting seems to be the only thing she let’s get to her when people are talking. Her character is impenetrable with confidence until it comes to her child who it seems she wants to protect and keep from anything that could make her stand out for the wrong reasons. 

The story follows these threads but doesn’t necessarily dive too deep into them, bringing down the lightness of the plot. It sprinkles them in with a wink, letting you know that there is substance in the story but the focus of the film is on the rivalry between Edith and Rose. 

I think this both works for and against the film. Giving it more depth and widening the focus to a world around the main characters. However, this can distract a little bit at times, meaning that some mystery or intrigue with the main plotline does get lost. It does feel like a difficult balance but having seen comedies on this level add in heart that doesn’t feel that out of place, it can be done. 

The comedy however is very effective to me, it's silly and sharp with great delivery from all actors. Other than the obvious of Coleman and Buckley, I thought that both Anjana Vasan and Hugh Skinner were a great addition to the cast in their roles as police officers on the case. The comedy is both from the dialogue and the letters themselves. The absurdity of the situation lends itself well towards the comedy and the realisation that it is loosely based on real life makes it even more ridiculous. 

The technical side of the film is simple but effective, with some dynamic camera angles and interesting musical choices that don’t detract from the comedy but make an effort to not be too bland in its presentation. The choices feel purposeful rather than lazy. There is a tendency for comedies to be as simple as possible in their technical department but it’s always appreciated to see more effort be put in as of late. I think this is especially the case with recent British comedies like Rye Lane or Polite Society. I’m hoping this trend of stylised comedies continues. 

Wicked Little Letters is a great little bubble of a film, just floating through, making an impression and leaving your consciousness. I don’t think this is a film that is going to stick with me in terms of strong story or the most quotable lines but I am sure that one day I will be scrolling through a streaming service and give this a second, maybe a third and possibly a fourth watch. 


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