Film Editors Alice Weltermann and James Richards join forces to review Wicked Little Letters – a fun, foul-mouthed and slightly forgettable new comedy

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Perspective One: Alice Weltermann

Wicked Little Letters (2023) is a fun and easy watch that doesn’t take itself too seriously; Jonny Sweet’s script is tongue-twisting and delivers vicious swearwords scattered into almost every line. The cast is strong, clearly revelling in this light-hearted opportunity as they command the F-word and C-word (Olivia Colman’s favourite, it’s been confirmed) with clear gusto. Jessie Buckley and Colman especially have a strong chemistry, bringing their usual skill to this short flick that, shockingly, is based on real events.

The premise is this: when pious and patronising Edith Swan (Colman) receives a flurry of rude letters, the authorities and her family immediately look to neighbour Rose Gooding (Buckley) as the perpetrator, assuming her guilt due to her failure to conform of the norms of their Littlehampton neighbourhood. Chaos and many rapid quips, ensue. 1920s England feels colourful and lively, and some politics of the time (like Rose’s Irish heritage and marriage status) are dealt with in interesting ways. This remains a rather quaint film despite this, though, its world feeling somewhat limited.

This remains a rather quaint film […] its world feeling somewhat limited

The choice to make Littlehampton an isolated place, made up of minimal sets, builds a sense of unison and community; yet it also restricts the action and dulls down the ridiculousness of the story. One montage of the country’s reaction to the Littlehampton letters breaks through into Colman and Buckley’s space of misbehaviour, but this effect is not lasting and is soon overcome. This isolation serves as a limitation on Letters since it reduces some of the film’s beats, making it ever so slightly boring despite its short run time. It also means that some scenes feel samey; moments of emotional climax are already predictable, and being shot in the same configuration we have seen before does not help these big moments to hit big landings. The camerawork and costuming is relatively uninteresting – background features like these need to be more engaging to keep audience interest.


Ultimately, the film’s flaw is that it relies too much on the novelty of watching famous people swear. Although it is incredibly satisfying to watch an Oscar winner effing and blinding, this builds a monotonous tone that only Woman Police Officer Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan) can stand up to. The flick feels quintessentially British in many ways: it wittily plays on and undoes stiff-upper-lip culture, and stars some of the UK and Ireland’s strongest and most brilliant actors. Yet it becomes apparent that putting these beloved actors in a 1920s seaside setting and telling them to go for it isn’t enough to create substance or lasting meaning. I do not crave a life lesson from this film – it wants to be fun, and it is fun. Yet having so much talent in one place deserves a plot that gives them more to do.

Rating: 5/10

Perspective Two: James Richards


It’s Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley on all the posters. It’s Colman and Buckley perched at the top of the credits. But it’s not Colman or Buckley (outstanding as they are) that ultimately runs away with Wicked Little Letters. That honour goes to third-billed star Anjana Vasan; not just the film’s standout performer, but also its unexpected protagonist.

Vasan is the steady-beating heart of Sharrock’s story. While Colman and Buckley excel in their specific roles as tight-wound accuser and wrongful accusee respectively, it’s Vasan (as straight-shooting WPC Gladys Moss) who serves the most multifarious function. It’s WPC Moss actually conducting the investigation into the Littlehampton letters. WPC Moss drawing the most sympathy (as she bears the snide jabs of her institutionally misogynist colleagues). WPC Moss mediating between the film’s two warring factions… and interacting with every major character in the process.

Vasan is in her element here: a down-to-earth foil for some of Britain and Ireland’s greatest character actors

As the film goes on, Vasan settles into her proverbial ‘straight man’ role with increasing ease: the Killing Eve (2018-22) star’s wide-eyed earnestness a welcome contrast to Letters’ otherwise strange, sweary supporting cast. When a freewheeling Joanna Scanlan, a nasty Timothy Spall or an obsequious Jason Watkins emerges to steal scenes, it’s the presence of the dependable Vasan that allows them to do so. Vasan is in her element here: a down-to-earth foil for some of Britain and Ireland’s greatest character actors.

It’s in character moments such as these that Wicked Little Letters excels; Sharrock’s film, though far from flawless, certainly knows how to flaunt its murderer’s row of talent. Perhaps a little too well. While the film’s lack of any particularly cheeky visual style seems calculated to show off its impressive cast and screenplay, you can’t help but wish that Wicked Little Letters was as much fun on the technical front as it was script and cast-wise. Watch Letters with the sound turned off and you’d be forgiven for assuming it was some sort of tasteful period drama. But Letters is not a tasteful period drama. Letters is a cheerfully tasteless period drama and it’s a tad disappointing that the film’s tepid visual style fails to really reflect this.


As a showcase for its wickedly funny cast, Letters succeeds. As a more balanced meal, it falters slightly. But it’s hard to dislike a movie that gives this many talented actors this many chances to flex both dramatic and comedic muscles. When standout Anjana Vasan plays it straight and serious, the film is at its best: the actor’s solemnity and gravitas a winning counterpoint to the performances of the film’s more openly funny stars. It is in darkness, after all, where stars can shine their brightest.

Rating: 6/10

Wicked Little Letters is in cinemas now.

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