The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Wicked Little Letters

By George & Josh Bate

Wicked Little Letters review

Anyone with even a fleeting online presence will know that trolling and harassment are commonplace. In the day and age of social media, it is all too easy to have an unidentifiable account and disseminate hurtful words while hiding in anonymity. Although social media is relatively novel, this phenomenon of trolling and harassment is not. Cue Wicked Little Letters

Wicked Little Letters is based on a true story that stunned a small seaside town of England in the 1920s. All is peaceful in the quaint village of Littlehampton. That is, until Edith Swan (played by Olivia Colman) receives a series of offensive letters full of foul language and harsh insults. Edith becomes far from the only victim of these scandalous letters as people all around the village start to receive these hurtful remarks. Suspicion soon falls on Rose Gooding (played by Jessie Buckley), a brazen Irish mother who recently moved into town with her daughter. Although all of the evidence points to Rose as the letter writer, police officer Gladys Moss (played by Anjana Vasan) begins to think the real culprit may be someone else and starts an investigation to solve this perplexing mystery.

The plot of Wicked Little Letters takes inspiration from the Miss Marple mystery The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie and the 1943 French film Le Corbeau. Both The Moving Finger and Wicked Little Letters focus on a quaint English village suddenly disrupted by nasty anonymous letters. The letters in The Moving Finger eventually lead to a murder and, in turn, an investigation. Wicked Little Letters, meanwhile, doesn’t reach such morbid depths, as it is instead focused more on its witty sense of humor and poignant social commentary. 

Wicked Little Letters review

And it’s through this combination of wit and commentary that Wicked Little Letters truly excels. The film is filled to the brim with humorous moments that comically point out the absurdity of how women were treated in this era. These moments are effective, despite following a similar pattern throughout the film: a woman is mistreated with comically absurd and misguided comments that simultaneously elicit laughs and convey just how lowly men thought of women. Unfortunately, we haven’t come as far as we would hope in many ways as there are various moments in the movie with disturbingly contemporary relevance. A sharp script from Jonny Sweet packs in a wealth of poignant feminist commentary encased with classic English wit, while the lead actors deliver performances perfectly suited for the film’s humorous yet socially conscience tone.

Three women are at the heart of Wicked Little Letters. Initially, there is Olivia Colman’s Edith Swan. Edith lives a seemingly peaceful, yet quietly displeased life with her father Edward (played by Timothy Spall) and mother Victoria (played by Gemma Jones). The family becomes greatly distressed when they begin to receive a series of overtly and hilariously offensive letters. Colman has proven time and time again the caliber of actress she is, here playing a character emotionally damaged by a psychologically abusive father. Colman deftly navigates a line between endearing and despicable in a manner she’s perfected in the likes of the HBO series Landscapers

Wicked Little Letters review

The writer of these sordid letters is believed to be Jessie Buckley’s Rose Gooding, who recently moved to the village from Ireland with her young daughter. Buckley’s brazen yet warm character is a scene-stealer as she adds an energy to every moment she’s on screen. With amazing turns in Fargo Season 4, Men, and The Lost Daughter, Buckley’s versatility as an actress is evidently something to admire, and Wicked Little Letters continues this trend. Her character Rose has a proclivity for colorful language, which makes her an obvious suspect when Edith begins to receive the wicked letters. The film’s story largely centers around Rose, who is already somewhat of an outcast given her rebellious attitude and overt dismay for the sexist institutions and individuals she is surrounded by. In this sense, Colman’s Edith Swan instigates the film’s narrative, but it’s Buckley’s Rose Gooding that provides the film substance and character depth.

But it’s Anjana Vasan’s Gladys Moss that the audience can really get behind. Incessantly introduced as Woman Police Officer Glady Moss, Vasan’s character is the sole person who casts doubt on the culpability of Rose. Dismissed by her male superiors, Moss takes it upon herself to follow in her ex-police officer father’s footsteps and get to the bottom of the mystery. Moss is often at the brunt of sexist remarks from co-workers who fail to see her value as a police officer. Vasan portrays the character with a comical stoicism and ends up being the film’s most endearing character.

Wicked Little Letters review

While the film finds much greater success with its characters, wit, and commentary, there is, however, still certainly an underlying mystery: who actually wrote the letters? The mystery itself disappointingly unfolds in extremely predictable fashion, so much so that it has one assuming that there surely must be a twist around the corner. Admittedly, the film is far less interested in this mystery than it is its fusion of humor and commentary, but, regardless, its attempts to intrigue with its central mystery fall flat. 

VERDICT: 7/10

Wicked Little Letters is an English mystery comedy that excels more so as a comedy than a mystery. Taking inspiration from Agatha Christie’s The Moving Finger, the film follows three women at the heart of a scandal in 1920s England. Jessie Buckley delivers a terrific performance as a brazen and rebellious mother, who becomes the prime suspect of writing and distributing offensive letters to the townspeople. A sharp script from Jonny Sweet and strong performances from the leading women allow Wicked Little Letters to delicately balance poignant feminist commentary with absurdist wit. Trolling and harassment may be common fixtures of daily living in the modern era, but Wicked Little Letters shows that these elements have existed for quite some time and, with delicate handling, can prove to be the source of some funny and socially conscious materials.

The HoloFiles

The HoloFiles is a website and series of social media accounts, including Star Wars Holocron, Marvel Tesseract, DC Motherbox, Film Codex, and Horror Necronomicon. We love cinema and television, and aim to spread positivity across different fandoms. Come to us for news, reviews, interviews, trivia facts, quotes, behind the scenes photos, analytic features, and more!