Wicked Little Letters – a Dark Comedy with Exceptional Performances

The film begins with a similar statement that this story is more valid than may be anticipated. That took me by surprise after previously having viewed the trailer. I thought it was fictional, but wait until you see this new film directed by Thea Sharrock (Me Before You) from a great script by Jonny Sweet (“Comedy Showcase” and “Chickens” TV series), based on a story that made national headlines in 1920s England. It may be hard for some people to be interested in this story about letter writing in the age of social media, cell phones, etc. – but some individuals of a certain age will remember when letter writing was common and the etiquette in place. It is a beautiful slice of history – not only letter writing – but women’s struggles at the time.

An Irish widowed woman, Rose Gooding (Jessie Buckley), with a small daughter (Alisha Weir), moves to a small town where everyone knows each other, Littlehampton. She has a small place to live, which happens to be next door to an elder couple, Edward and Victoria Swan (Timothy Spall and Gemma Jones), very Christian and controlling parents to their middle-aged adult daughter, Edith (Olivia Colman). Rose and Edith begin a small, neighborly friendship, although they appear to be vastly different at first. It is soon after that Edith starts to receive anonymous letters with obscene language, the likes of what they used to refer to as what a sailor would say. Edith and her parents complained, Rose is accused and the town assumes it is Rose because of her free spirit. She also has a live-in boyfriend, Bill (Malachi Kirby). This living situation also raises eyebrows. With no evidence, Rose is arrested, and because she can’t pay the bond amount, she serves time in jail, has a trial, and ends up in jail longer.

The local police are bumbling and chauvinistic and treat the one female police officer (at the time), Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan), more like a secretary who serves tea when requested. She begins to doubt Rose’s guilt and takes on an investigation of her own despite facing suspension at work.

The film is interesting as the audience begins learning about the two main characters and what is happening in the neighborhood, and then goes further on to become news. The more exciting part kicks in when Gladys Moss takes matters into her own hands with the other local women who seem to show sympathy for what Rose is accused of, being in jail and away from her daughter. Solving a British mystery about who was at the root of the letters is quite humorous with all the characters involved. We must remember there were no cameras in the streets surveilling what the people do, such as now. Colman is funny, and I won’t describe what she does or says. She says volumes with her face without saying a word. Buckley is perfect in her role as a free spirit. I can’t spoil it!

Among the additional cast are Hugh Skinner, Eileen Atkins and Joanna Skanlon.

MPA rating: R (for language throughout and sexual material) with a running time: of 1:40

Watch it in theaters as of Friday, April 5th.

Source: Sony Pictures Classics

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