“Wicked Little Letters” is a delightful period comedy drama set in 1920’s England. It portrays the true story of a small town, Little Hampton, troubled by a series of scandalous letters delivered to the locals, which causes uproar in the community. It is directed by Thea Sharrock, and boasts a talented cast including Olivia Coleman, Irish actress and singer, Jessica Buckley, and Anjana Vasan.

Olivia Coleman stars as Edith Swan, an uptight spinster, stranded at home with her elderly parents, including her emotionally abusive father (played wonderfully by Timothy Spall). The status quo is disrupted by the arrival of a new neighbour: a rebellious, foul mouth, yet charming, young Irish woman, named Rose Gooding (Buckley). An unlikely friendship blossoms between the mismatched pair, but things take a turn for the worse when Rose is reported to social services, and Edith begins receiving the aforementioned “Wicked Little Letters” containing a slew of foul mouth insults and vulgarity that shock and horrify the prudish community (though are hilarious by today’s standards). Of course, the finger of accusation is pointed squarely at Rose. As opinion turns against Rose, her only hope of avoiding a prison sentence and losing her child (This might seem far- fetched, but apparently this actually happened) is an ambitious new female police officer who plans to investigate the case, against the wishes of her male superiors.

I am not usually a fan of period pieces such as this, however I found myself very much enjoying the movie. It has a terrific sense of charm, witty writing, and the cast deliver their lines with impeccable comic timing that makes the film an absolute joy to watch. This, along with some more dramatic and heart-felt moments, makes for a compelling and worthwhile viewing experience. The real joy of the film is the performances. All three leading ladies are likable, even in their more villainous times. Also, as an Irishman, it can be very rewarding to see the squabbles between a free, fun-loving, Irish woman and the more hoity-toity Brits, in a way that is hilarious, but never mean spirited, and clearly done in jest.

Like a lot of modern cinema releases, the film does convey a heavy feminist (some might say anti-men) stance, but unlike a lot of Hollywood movies, it doesn’t come across as preachy or as forced as it might have.
The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, which allows one to enjoy the characters struggles without feeling like you are being smacked in the face with a societal message. Although, this does come with a downside, where it can sometimes feel like you are watching a kids movie, which has been peculiarly classified as over 15s (possibly for bad language).

Other potential flaws would mostly stem from the believability of certain events. However, upon investigation, it appears that most, if not all, of the more absurd scenarios are actually rooted in real life occurrences, proving that fact can indeed be stranger than fiction. However, despite my perceived shortcomings, I couldn’t really find it in myself to care. This, to me, is the sign of a good movie. When imperfections go by mostly unnoticed or easily overlooked, as you are far too engrossed in the enjoyable viewing experience to worry about it. Highly recommended.

RATING = 4* out of 5.0

  • Directed by: Thea Sharrock
  • Written by: Jonny Sweet
  • Starring: Olivia Coleman, Jessica Buckley, and Anjana Vasan
  • Run Time: 1hr 40min.
  • Rated:  15s (IE)
  • Released: Feb. 23rd, 2024 (IE & UK)

Review by Ross McCarthy, Dublin based screenwriter and stand-up comedian.

Wicked Little Letters Trailer