Wicked Little Letters (dir. Thea Sharrock)

By: Meghan Winebrenner

The current social media landscape has centered discussions on the lack of accountability accompanying anonymous accounts. Nameless users increase the spread of misinformation and hateful remarks without any threat of repercussion.  Equally concerning is that this modern dilemma appears to have no discernable starting place. However, there are menacing origins present amongst written correspondence that have long been forgotten. Set in Littlehampton, Wales following World War I, Thea Sharrock’s (Me Before You) latest film, Wicked Little Letters, tells a hilarious and ironically contemporary tale based on events set a century ago. Helmed by the incredibly talented duo from The Lost Daughter, actresses Olivia Colman (The Favourite) and Jessie Buckley (Women Talking) reunite to share a charming crime comedy about family, friendship, and foul four letter words. 

Sharrock’s film opens with Edith Swan (Colman) distraught over a string of vulgar letters sent anonymously to her home. Edith is a middle-aged spinster who still lives with her parents and the Swan family are all avid followers of Christ. The letters are appalling in contrast to the Swan’s modest nature and Edith believes the anonymous penman to be her next-door neighbor Rose Gooding (Buckley). Rose has just arrived in town from Ireland, and she brings with her a boyfriend and a child from a previous marriage. Rose’s incredibly boisterous and crass personality comes as a shock to Edith, nevertheless their opposing temperaments present as a budding friendship. Despite this, Edith declares Rose the unnamed culprit behind the vile letters, and Rose is quickly sent to jail. Rose argues her innocence declaring that if she wanted to share boorish accusations of her fellow townspeople, she would do so to their faces and not risk losing her daughter over such foolishness. It also quickly becomes apparent to “Woman Police Officer” Gladys Moss, portrayed by Anjana Vasan (We Are Lady Parts), that Rose could not have written the letters because her handwriting doesn't match the penmanship scrawled on the notes delivered via post.  Sharrock’s quirky whodunit delightfully unravels, sharing a hysterical true story about one of the world’s first anonymous ‘trolls.’

Wicked Little Letters proves to be an absolute blast. Sharrock’s characters and cast are enthralling and audiences will be sure to enjoy each member bringing something different to the mischievous tale. The Academy Award winning Colman once again offers a charming performance, proving that she is one of the most amiable actors in cinema today. Meanwhile, Buckley’s Rose is exceedingly charismatic and the bond shared amongst her small unconventional family is alluring in nature. The rest of the ensemble cast, including Timothy Spall (Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) and Jemma Jones (Sense and Sensibility), play members of the whimsical Littlehampton neighborhood and help to elevate the story adding warm elements of camaraderie and nostalgia. One of the film’s most entertaining subplots  revolves around the Littlehampton Police. Gladys Moss found her calling in law enforcement partially to follow in the footsteps of her father, while her male counterparts fulfill the “lazy bobby” archetype. The dynamic is humorous to follow, and the storyline contributes to the film's conversation surrounding the relationship shared amongst parent and child. Wicked Little Letters' most interesting link to modern day is the comparison of the penman to current keyboard warriors. With online bullying being an issue for the lion’s share of social media users, this true story demonstrates the origins of such behavior and explains the humanity behind those who hide online. History lovers will appreciate the interlaced callbacks to the Great War, and Anglophiles will be drawn to the beautiful backdrops provided by the sweet beach community of Littlehampton. Wicked Little Letters is a dazzling and jovial mystery that audiences won’t want to miss. 

Target Score 7/10 - Sharrock’s whodunit is wickedly fun and full of laughs. The cast is immensely talented, and the characters are effortlessly loveable. Colman and Buckley shine as humorous frenemies in this comedic mystery sure to earn appreciation from history buffs and Anglophiles alike.