Wicked Little Letters is a 2023 British black comedy mystery film directed by Thea Sharrock, written by Jonny Sweet, and starring Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Anjana Vasan, Joanna Scanlan, Gemma Jones, Malachi Kirby, Lolly Adefope, Eileen Atkins, and Timothy Spall. Based on a true scandal, it follows an investigation into the anonymous author of numerous crudely insulting letters sent to the residents of seaside town Littlehampton.[6][7][8]

Wicked Little Letters
Film poster
Directed byThea Sharrock
Written byJonny Sweet
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyBen Davis
Edited byMelanie Oliver
Music byIsobel Waller-Bridge[1]
Production
companies
Distributed byStudioCanal
Release dates
  • 9 September 2023 (2023-09-09) (TIFF)
  • 23 February 2024 (2024-02-23) (United Kingdom)
Running time
100 minutes[2]
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Budget$12.6 million[3]
Box office$20.6 million[4][5]

Wicked Little Letters premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 9 September 2023, and was released in the United Kingdom by StudioCanal on 23 February 2024. It received positive reviews from critics.

Plot edit

In 1920, during the suffragette movement in the United Kingdom, Edith Swan, a spinster and devout Christian in Littlehampton, becomes the target of hate mail - an issue of great distress to her, her controlling father Edward and gentle mother Victoria. Having endured nineteen such letters spilt with profanities, Edward seeks the assistance of the local constabulary, suspecting their neighbor, the haughty-yet-lone mother and Irish migrant Rose Gooding, as the sender. Highlighting Rose's infamous proclivity for swearing, Edith testifies that she and her initially shared a friendship regardless of their differences, which abruptly ended following an episode wherein Rose beat one of Edward's guests at his birthday party, which was followed by a visit from the local child protective services acting on a tip; believing Edith did it, she had ended the friendship.

Rose is arrested and - since she can't afford bail - imprisoned ahead of her trial, set to take place in two-and-a-half months. She leaves her daughter Nancy in the care of Bill, her partner. Nonetheless, police officer Gladys Moss is skeptical, noticing differences in Rose's handwriting and that of the letters; however, her observations are dismissed by her misogynistic superior Chief Constable Spedding, who forbids her from interfering. Elsewhere, Rose meets Edith's friends - Ann, Mabel and Kate, for insight; whilst Kate detests Rose, Ann and Mabel appear more sympathetic. Rose initially attempts to seek Gladys' help but is rebuffed, nonetheless, Ann and Mabel bail her. Immediately upon release, Edward, and to Rose's astonishment - other Littlehampton residents confront her with similar letters. The case swiftly spirals into a national sensation, earning the attention of Westminster and the press; Gladys finally agrees to help Rose, noting the discrimination they both have faced.

Privately, Edith is revealed to be the actual sender, having orchestrated the affair to channel her repressed anger towards Edward's maltreatment; she writes another letter to herself, only for it to be intercepted by an unknowing Victoria, who dies from heartbreak. Whilst concluding police formalities, Gladys notices similarities between Edith's signature and the letters; again, her claims are dismissed by Spedding, who suspends her from duty. Undeterred, Gladys enlists Ann, Mabel and Kate to privately investigate, albeit without Rose's involvement. Nevertheless, Edith evades Gladys and outsmarts her whilst posting another letter. On the eve of her trial, Rose finally discovers the ruse when she matches the distinctive form of the letter G on a sign-writing that Edith created with that in the letters.

During the trial, Rose admits her infamy for her profuse vulgarities, noting she would have communicated them verbally rather then write the anonymous letters; her defense counsel also points Edith’s handwriting, but is dismissed. The prosecution, however, corners Rose by revealing Nancy's true origins as an illegitimate child and not the daughter of a killed Great War soldier, as Rose had previously claimed; the revelation upsets both Nancy and Bill. Later, Edith confronts Edward over his control: he was the one who tipped off child services on Rose; he shuts her down. The next day, Gladys and the trio realize Edith would write a final letter, and thus have specific stamps dipped in specially-prepared invisible ink for Edith to use, which she falls for; elsewhere, Rose flees when Spedding attempts to arrest her prematurely. She corners Edith over her trickery, culminating in the two exchanging swears, nonetheless, the letter is posted. Surprisingly, Gladys had her niece intercept the letter, and demonstrates to Spedding Edith's culpability by revealing the ink, resulting in her arrest and Rose’s exoneration.

Following the trial, the two women share a civil moment; Edith regrets the end of the friendship, explaining she meant no hurt. She manages a final, defiant moment against Edward by cursing at him publicly - much to his shock and Rose's glee. As Edith is taken away, a closing note reveals the fate of the characters: Edith was sentenced to twelve months' hard labor, Rose was never accused again and Gladys was commemorated for her actions.

Cast edit

Production edit

The film was announced in May 2022, with Thea Sharrock set to direct, and Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley starring.[9] In September, the cast was rounded out with Anjana Vasan, Timothy Spall, Gemma Jones and Eileen Atkins among the additions.[10]

Production began in September 2022 and continued till early October in Arundel and Worthing,[10][11] with some scenes filmed in and around the former Crown Court in Aylesbury. Ben Davis served as cinematographer.[12] Principal photography took place on Stage 1 of Pinewood Studios.[13][14]

Release edit

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 9 September 2023.[15][16]

In November 2023, Sony Pictures Classics acquired North American and Chinese distribution rights, after its sister company Stage 6 Films acquired international rights in various countries.[17]

The film was released in cinemas in the United Kingdom on 23 February 2024.[18]

Reception edit

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 80% of 149 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The website's consensus reads: "Thanks largely to a strong cast that leans into the story's humorous side, Wicked Little Letters is a diverting comedy even if the mystery at its core isn't particularly clever."[19] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 58 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average" reviews.[20]

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four and wrote, "The chief delight in Wicked Little Letters is watching Colman and Buckley in action; it's really not much of a mystery, as the culprit is revealed to us long before the townsfolk catch on."[21]

The Telegraph's Robbie Collin awarded the film two stars out of five and summed up his review by stating "this British chocolate-box period comedy thinks that excessive swearing works as a substitute for a good plot – but it really doesn't."[22]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Isobel Waller-Bridge Scoring Thea Sharrock's 'Wicked Little Letters'". Retrieved 8 September 2023.
  2. ^ "Wicked Little Letters (15)". BBFC. Retrieved 3 February 2024.
  3. ^ https://www.fcnp.com/2024/04/04/a-review-of-wicked-little-letters-in-theaters-now/amp/
  4. ^ "Wicked Little Letters (2024)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 19 April 2024. 
  5. ^ "Wicked Little Letters". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  6. ^ Hilliard, Christopher (2017). The Littlehampton Libels: A Miscarriage of Justice and a Mystery about Words in 1920s England. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0192520258.
  7. ^ "Wicked Little Letters". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 5 August 2023.
  8. ^ "Libellous Letters in Littlehampton". West Sussex Record Office. 20 February 2024. Retrieved 17 March 2024.
  9. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (14 May 2022). "Olivia Colman & Jessie Buckley Set To Reunite On Wicked Little Letters For Studiocanal, Three Billboards Outfit Blueprint & South Of The River Pictures — Cannes Market Hot Project". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  10. ^ a b Wiseman, Andreas (29 September 2022). "Olivia Colman & Jessie Buckley Underway On Wicked Little Letters; Anjana Vasan, Timothy Spall, Joanna Scanlan, Malachi Kirby Among Cast To Join". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  11. ^ Fox, Thomas (4 October 2022). "Olivia Colman and other stars seen on Wicked Little Letters film set in Arundel". Sussex Live. Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  12. ^ "Ben Davis BSC". Independent Talent. Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  13. ^ "Wicked Little Letters". Pinewood Group. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  14. ^ Gant, Charles (9 September 2023). "TIFF spotlight: 'Wicked Little Letters' filmmakers on bringing a 1920s poison-pen letters scandal to life". Screen Daily. Archived from the original on 12 February 2024. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  15. ^ "StudioCanal, Film 4, Blueprint Pictures & South of the River Pictures' Wicked Little Letters announce world premiere at Toronto Film Festival 2023. First look image released and UK release date confirmed". StudioCanal (Press release). 24 July 2023. Retrieved 9 August 2023.
  16. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (24 July 2023). "TIFF Lineup Unveiled Amid Strikes: Awards Contenders 'Dumb Money', 'The Holdovers', 'Rustin'; Starry Pics For Sale With Scarlett Johansson, Kate Winslet, Michael Keaton, Viggo Mortensen & More". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 24 July 2023.
  17. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (3 November 2023). "Sony Pictures Classics Buys Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley-Led 'Wicked Little Letters' Following TIFF Debut". Variety. Retrieved 3 November 2023.
  18. ^ "Sony Pictures Classics Takes North America, China On Olivia Colman-Jessie Buckley Picture 'Wicked Little Letters'". Deadline. 3 November 2023.
  19. ^ "Wicked Little Letters". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 15 April 2024.
  20. ^ "Wicked Little Letters Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 15 April 2024.
  21. ^ Roeper, Richard (2 April 2024). "'Wicked Little Letters' a frothy showcase for Colman, Buckley as neighbors at war". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 15 April 2024.
  22. ^ Collin, Robbie (22 February 2024). "Wicked Little Letters: Olivia Colman drops the F-bomb – to tiresome effect". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 February 2024.

External links edit