When people in Littlehampton–including conservative local Edith–begin to receive letters full of hilarious profanities, rowdy Irish migrant Rose is charged with the crime. Suspecting that something is amiss, the town’s women investigate.

Pam says:

Hidden stories and truth that is stranger than fiction; these are the things that make great movies and “Wicked Little Letters” is one bizarre story based in reality that will make you laugh, cringe, and feel completely satisfied at the end.

Starring Olivia Colman as Edith, a prim and proper spinster living with her overbearing father played expertly by Timothy Spall and mousy mother Mabel (Gemma Jones) in the 1920’s England, who has been receiving unsavory letters in the mail from an unknown author.  These letters would make a nun blush and a sailor squirm with their blasphemous language.  Edith, assured that it must be the hussy from Ireland, Rose Gooding (Jessie Buckley) who lives next door, who penned these poisoned letters, allows dear old dad to call the coppers and have her arrested.  The truth is more sordid than the words in the letters.

We flash back in time to more clearly understand Edith’s shackles she wears thanks to her controlling father and find that she admires her new neighbor Rose with her can-do attitude and foul mouth.  She takes no sh** from anyone, particularly a man or anyone in authority, but we find that Rose has kryptonite in the form of her adorable daughter Nancy for whom she would give her life to protect.  As Rose’s incarceration continues with the impending courtroom drama ahead, Woman Police Officer Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan) smells something rotten in the small town of Littlehampton with her incompetent captain leading the way.  Rallying the troops, she vows to be a detective and find the truth.

“Wicked Little Letters” is one of the best movies this year as you might guess given the star power involved.  Writer Jonny Sweet and director Thea Sharrock find the perfect pitch to carry us through this long-buried story of revenge and control.  Equally important is the chemistry between not only Colman and Buckley, but the entire cast who gives life and laughter to an incredulous story.  

With many of the characters seemingly over the top, there’s a believability to each of them as well.  Buckley is a crass, tough, raucous woman — especially of this time period — but her love of her daughter grounds her portrayal of Rose.  Colman gives us an exquisitely fine-tuned performance, relishing in the complexity and depth of repression her Edith displays.  We’ve also got a group of misfit women lead by Vasan’s Officer Moss who perfectly imbues British comedic tone.  Eileen Atkins (Mabel), Joanna Scanlan (Ann), and Lolly Adefope (Kate) comprise this sorely underestimated group of women who also want to prove Rose’s innocence with what feels like a hair-brained scheme.  Together, you can’t get enough of this group!

Be warned!  There are more F-bombs and profanity than any “Godfather” movie to date, but it’s hilariously delivered which softens the blows.  With a final scene that you want to watch repeatedly, you’ll be laughing so hard the tears will stream down your face.  

4 Stars

Chuck says:

In 1920, scandal broke out in Littlehampton, England that rocked the community to its core and resulted in two sensational trials that left its citizens in shock and disbelief.  A series of anonymously written letters had been sent to Edith Swan and her family, missives that contained vile, shocking insults and accusations. The contents of these poison pen notes were so unseemly, they were not read aloud at the subsequent trials that resulted from these actions. As time passed, Edith’s clients from her laundry service began receiving threatening letters, telling them to suspend their business with her, as did her brother’s employer, accusing her sibling of theft.

Edith pointed the finger at her neighbor and former friend Rose Gooding.  Assumptions were made, and conclusions quickly drawn that she was the culprit, all of this based on her penchant for using colorful language and reputation for ribald behavior.

Thea Sharrock’s “Wicked Little Letters” recounts these events and their aftermath, a story with its fair share of twists and turns, coupled with a rather simplistic look at mental illness. At times funny, at others tragic, this is a fascinating story that plays out as a precursor to the cyber-bullying of today, in which insults and recriminations are thrown at their targets from a safe distance.

To be sure, some liberties have been taken with the story, but they’re in service of its theme and intent, streamlining events and condensing multiple characters into single ones. We see Rose (Jesse Buckley) as a single mother to her daughter Nancy (Alisha Weir), the Irish immigrant struggling to make ends meet as well as keep a tidy house. Casting herself as a missionary of sorts, intent on saving this wayward soul, her neighbor Edith Swan (Olivia Coleman) befriends her, and as these two couldn’t be more different, companionship that’s strained from the start.

The screenplay by Jonny Sweet weaves in a whimsical subplot involving Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan), a female police officer in the Littlehampton department who, after being brushed aside and considered a token hire, sets out to solve the case. With the help of a band of eccentrics and using invisible ink, they finally get to the bottom of things.

While the method in which the case was solved is accurate, the players are not. Sweet’s intent to introduce a feminist subplot is obvious and awkward, yet it does prove entertaining, Sharrock and her cast create a light-hearted tone with this plotline that effectively counters the serious goings-on in the rest of the film.

Coleman brings a vulnerability to Swan that permits the audience to sympathize with her, despite her sanctimonious air and holier-than-thou demeanor. She comes to be seen as a victim of circumstance with the introduction of her domineering father Edward, a role Timothy Spall attacks with relish. Buckley provides the flipside of the coin, employing unbridled energy and natural charisma to give us a woman with no inhibitions. Scenes late in the movie, in which we learn of Rose’s tragic background and come to understand the reasons behind some of her behavior, allow the actress to display her range.

When attacked, anger is often the first response followed by the urge to defend oneself.  As a result, we don’t initially see just why those who wish to do us harm are behaving as they do. “Letters” reminds us in stark terms and an entertaining manner, that there is always more than meets the eye and that those who attack us are likely in more pain than we can imagine.

3 1/2 Stars



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