Wicked Little Letters - Reviewed by Alessia Belsito-Riera | Regional News Connecting Wellington

Wicked Little Letters


100 minutes

(4 ½ out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

Dear Reader,
In the years following World War I, in a sleepy seaside town, British decorum was ripped to shreds in a poison-pen scandal. As the title screen of Wicked Little Letters warns, this story is more real than you may think.

Dubbed the Littlehampton Libels by author Christopher Hilliard, the case consisted of a series of anonymous letters written by a scathing, all-knowing, foul-mouthed tongue. “Piss-country wh*re”, one says with carefully dotted i’s and crossed t’s. In a delicately twirled font, another reads “Her Majesty Ms Swan sucks 10…” well, you catch my drift.

Distributed first to one Edith Swan (Olivia Colman) the letters are immediately attributed to the pious middle-aged spinster’s neighbour and ex-friend. Rose Gooding (Jessie Buckley) is a single mother from Ireland known for her bare-footed romps, bar carousing, and direct effusive language – she is the obvious suspect. Arrested for libel, she is briefly imprisoned before her trial until her bail is posted. From the moment of her release the letters resurface, this time addressed to mailboxes throughout to the whole town. Woman police officer Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan) is suspicious of the conviction and determined to find out the true identity of the anonymous epistolarian despite her captain’s warnings.

What ensues is a delicious, linguistically colourful rampage through the decline of British austerity, the rise of feminism, and a light-hearted exploration of repression. Gendered assumptions and classist stereotypes run deep amongst the men. Moss is routinely dismissed for her excellent work by her superior and comrades. Edith is routinely harassed by an austere, controlling, and belittling father. I delighted in hating the horrible and hypocritical Edward Swan, brilliantly portrayed by Timothy Spall.

I must disagree with many unfavourable reviews dismissing director Thea Sharrock and writer Jonny Sweet for a shallow depiction of the story, suggesting the film failed to seize the opportunity for meaty social commentary. It was all there, just perhaps not so explicitly (pun intended). The audience should be given more credit – we can read between the lines. We can also delight in the graphic blasphemies as much as our prophane poet does.

Your “foxy-a**” journalist,


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