The Reel Review


When Edith Swan, a conservative, middle-aged spinster living with her controlling parents, gets a series of obscene letters calling her all sorts of awful names, suspicion in their tiny seaside town in 1920s England turns to Rose Gooding, a rowdy, free-spirited, foul-mouthed Irish immigrant living next door. But the town’s first policewoman suspects Rose is being set-up. Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley star in this period mystery/comedy based on a true story.

Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley in Wicked Little Letters

Wicked Little Letters is likely the most charming foul-mouthed movie ever made. Colman and Buckley are both great fun as the likable duo with polar opposite personalities who, after initially becoming fast friends, soured on one another. Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Secrets & Lies) is also particularly good as Edith’s loathsome father. The first half is pretty predictable and clichéd, but the real fun starts in the second half of the film, when the culprit is revealed. The story then turns into a caper in which policewoman Gladys Moss (an excellent Anjana Vasan), aided by a group of women sympathetic to Rose, hatch a plan to capture the culprit red-handed and outsmart the arrogant, sexist, bumbling men on the police force.

Olivia Colman in Wicked Little Letters

Even with all the humor, screenwriter Jonny Sweet and director Thea Sharrock (Me Before You) still leave room for sentimentality, as you appreciate Rose’s frank openness and joy for life and feel sorry for poor put-upon Edith, with her smug Christianity and joy at finally being the center of attention – all while feeding her own inner demons. At times, the story gets a bit twee, but even so, there are enough laugh out loud moments and clever surprises to make Wicked Little Letters an absolute delight.


The real Edith Swan, Rose Gooding and Gladys Moss

• Nearly every detail outlined in Wicked Little Letters is how it happened in real life except that Rose Gooding was actually from Sussex, England and not an Irish immigrant. (Actress Jessie Buckley is Irish.) Gladys Moss was actually the first woman police officer in Sussex, England.

• Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley both received Oscar nominations for 2021’s The Lost Daughter.

Little Wicked Letters was filmed in Littlehampton, England, where the original real story took place, and the nearby towns of Arundel and Worthing.

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