Wicked Little Letters

Verdict: Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley were a delight but this comedy needed more laugh-out-loud moments

  • Olivia Colman, Timothy Spall, Hugh Skinner, Jessie Buckley
  • February 23rd 2024
  • Thea Sharrock

Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley play warring neighbours in 1920s Littlehampton in this new British comedy.

After playing two versions of the same character in The Lost Daughter, Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley finally share the screen in Wicked Little Letters.

Based on a true story in 1920s Littlehampton, the dark comedy stars Colman as Edith Swan, a highly religious woman living at home with her cruel father Edward (Timothy Spall). Next door lives Rose Gooding (Buckley) a rowdy Irish woman with a young daughter Nancy (Alisha Weir) and new boyfriend Bill (Malachi Kirby).

When Edith receives rude and indecent letters in the post, she points the finger at the most obvious person – the potty-mouthed Rose. The male police officers don’t take much convincing, but Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan), the first woman on the force, doesn’t think Rose did it. Despite her superiors urging her to leave the case alone, Moss takes it upon herself to find the real culprit.

Wicked Little Letters is an amusing tale elevated by its central trio of performances. However, it’s not as funny as you would expect it to be and the novelty of the insulting messages wears off after a while.

It’s also been presented as a straightforward comedy in the trailer but there’s actually a sad dramatic story at the heart of it. Director Thea Sharrock tries to strike a balance between the light and dark tones and it mostly works.

There is also a worthy subplot that the highlights the sexism Moss faced at the time. As the first woman on the police force, she isn’t given any responsibility or treated with respect by her male colleagues. When they don’t listen to her protests about the case, she teams up with local women played by Lolly Adefope, Joanna Scanlan and Eileen Atkins to crack the case.

While the jokes didn’t always elicit laughs, it was still a delight watching Colman and Buckley going up against each other on screen. Buckley shines as the naughty, raucous woman who isn’t afraid to swear in public but Colman is still funny thanks to her odd facial expressions and line deliveries.

Wicked Little Letters was a lovely watch but it could have done with more laugh-out-loud moments.

In cinemas from Friday 23rd February.

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