Wicked Little Letters is a sweary seaside delight!

Sometimes the very best stories come from the most unlikely of places, like WICKED LITTLE LETTERS, the true (seriously, Google it) story of a sleepy 1920s English coastal town turned upside-down by a torrent of handwritten obscenities popping through the letterboxes to land on doormats like profane postal grenades. Written by Jonny Sweet and directed by Thea Sharrock the two conspire to deliver a quaint seaside whodunnit of the kind Agatha Christie might have written after taking a bong rip while binge-watching a SOUTH PARK box set.

Olivia Colman stars as Edith, a deeply repressed, resentfully devout spinster who initially befriends and then falls out with her Irish neighbour Rose (Jessie Buckley). When the crude communiqués start piling up on Edith’s doorstep, suspicion falls firmly on Rose and the local constabulary, keen to put the whole thing to bed without a fuss are only too keen to make this an open and shut case. But with Rose facing the loss of her freedom, and her daughter, some of the wiser villagers start to have their own suspicions, suspicions that are shared by the village’s new woman police officer Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan) despite the opprobrium of her superiors and the ruddy-cheeked domineering of Edith’s father Edward (a quietly terrifying Timothy Spall).

Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley bring to the screen a cinematic double act like no other. Colman’s Edith Swan is a study in restrained dichotomy, pivoting from winsome to wicked and back in the twinkle of an eye while Buckley’s Rose is a foul-mouthed, free-spirited firebrand, living life large and lusty much to the disgust of the straightlaced Swans. The supporting cast is just as fantastically watchable. There’s a local copper (Hugh Skinner) who’s all bumbling pomposity, Edith’s domineering father who seems permanently on the brink of a stroke-inducing rage and a trio of town gossips (Lolly Adefobe, Eileen Atkins and a wonderfully grubby Joanna Scanlan) who are clearly living for the drama.

The mystery at the heart of “Wicked Little Letters” is who’s penning these wickedly filthy and surprisingly well-written letters that keep popping up all over town. The film does a delightful dance of misdirection and genuinely twisty moments which keep you guessing right up until the inspiration shifts from Agatha Christie whodunnit to Columbo we-know-who-did-it-but-how-will-they-get-caught. Throughout it all there’s a genuine sense of growing unease in the town, a feeling that this whole thing could spiral into chaos at any moment, even by modern twenty-first century standards.

A roisterous, boisterous comedy of manners that plays out against the backdrop of a nascent suffragette movement, there’s also a vague sense of a society and a nation at an inflexion point as the unstoppable march of progress meets the near-irresistible force of stiff-upper-lipped British patriarchy but honestly what you’ll take away is the sheer brazenness of it all. WICKED LITTLE LETTERS will have you howling with laughter and gasping in disbelief, only to do it all over again as the next letter arrives. The letters themselves are quaintly outrageous but the real moments are the reactions of the victims and the accused.

Comedies are often described as uproarious but this bawdy British period dramedy earns that soubriquet, and then some. There’s never been anything quite like this, well except for the actual events the film is based on, but WICKED LITTLE LETTERS gets my stamp of approval for my favourite film of the year.

Wicked Little Letters Review
Score 10/10

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