Press "Enter" to skip to content

Review: Wicked Little Letters (2024)

Wicked Little Letters (2024)

Directed by: Thea Sharrock

Premise: Based on true events. Set in the town of Littlehampton in the early twentieth century, a prim and proper woman (Olivia Colman) receives a series of anonymous, vulgar, and harassing letters. Her neighbor (Jessie Buckley) is arrested based on specious evidence.

What Works: Wicked Little Letters combines comedy and drama very effectively. This is fundamentally a story of a wrongly accused person and the efforts to clear her name. Edith and her family receive letters full of vulgarity and their neighbor Rose is accused of libel. It’s obvious to the audience that Rose did not send those letters but law enforcement and the community become convinced due to Edith’s outwardly moral character and Rose’s coarse vocabulary and free-spirited manner. The vulgarity of the letters is funny but more so because of the pearl clutching by everyone who reads them. In that respect, Wicked Little Letters is firmly rooted in a specific time and place. However, this story is also remarkably relevant to contemporary life and the phenomenon of harassment in online spaces and the way people are cast as villains and victims by the press and the allure of the spotlight as a result. Wicked Little Letters is also astute about the relationships between women. Edith is part of a social circle and there is a delicious, passive aggressive cattiness to their shared scenes. The story unveils a significant revelation about halfway through the picture and most viewers will probably anticipate it. The lack of surprise doesn’t matter because what is so interesting about Wicked Little Letters is the drama of the unjust libel charge and the complexity of the characters. The principle female characters are all given a great deal of depth. It would be easy to portray Edith as just a holier-than-thou mean girl but there is a lot more going on in her life, especially her complicated relationship with her father, and the details of Olivia Colman’s performance reveal Edith’s inner conflict. Jessie Buckley showcases similar complexity as Rose. She’s had a difficult life and her gruff vocabulary is offset by her maternal concern for her daughter. Anjana Vasan also impresses as a female police officer dealing with misogyny in the workplace. These character details give the film some depth and stakes and there are moments of Wicked Little Letters that are quite sad. The filmmakers stitch together the tone in a way that has the viewer laughing through the tears.

What Doesn’t: The complexity that is enjoyed by the female characters is not afford to their male counterparts. Most of the film’s male figures are daft or chauvinistic or both. This is understandable insofar as the filmmakers are setting up a gendered conflict between these women and the patriarchal social structure but the men are so dumb and one dimensional that they become cartoonish. The police especially make leaps in their prosecution of Rose that are incredulous.

Bottom Line: Wicked Little Letters is at once a lot of fun but also manages quite a bit of depth. It’s smart and funny but also has nuanced characters and an engaging story that is relevant to contemporary life.

Episode: #992 (April 14, 2024)