Directed by: Thea Sharrock
Written by: Jonny Sweet
Starring: Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Anjana Vasan, Joanna Scanlan, Gemma Jones, Timothy Spall
Released: March 21, 2024
Grade: B+

Wicked Little Letters

Last month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced their first new Oscars category in over two decades.  The details are still being finalised but in 2026, a statuette will be awarded to recognise the year’s best casting directors.  They’re the folk who scout around, watch tapes, hold auditions, and find the ideal actor for each role.

Wicked Little Letters is a wonderful example of just how importing casting directors can be.  It’s not a particularly deep or complicated screenplay (there’s a lot of repetition) but the actors elevate the material and make it all worthwhile.  Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley, who starred together two years ago in The Lost Daughter, are superb as the two leads.  The supporting players are terrific also!

Set in 1920s England and loosely based on a true story, Wicked Little Letters is the tale of a town engulfed in scandal.  A series of filthy, profanity-laden letters have been sent to the home of Edith Swan (Colman), a middle-aged religious woman who still lives with her domineering father (Spall) and quiet mother (Jones).  The household suspects the author is Rose Gooding (Buckley), a free-spirited single mum who lives next door with her young daughter.  The pair recently had a falling out, hence the motive.

It’s not long before police get involved and the situation escalates.  Rose is arrested, despite protesting her innocence, and is put on trial for libel.  It’s the kind of bizarre case where everyone in town is talking about it.  Newspaper journalists add more fuel to the fire with their interviews and salacious stories.  Most members of the public believe Rose is guilty but a handful of acquaintances have doubts and are doing some off-the-record policing to validate her innocence.

Framed as a dark comedy, this latest effort from English director Thea Sharrock (Me Before You) is fun.  It succeeds as an interesting whodunit and also offers perspective on a patriarchal society.  Several of the villainous characters, such as Timothy Spall as the father, get deep under your skin.  You want to see him get what he deserves!  The friendlier individuals, played by the likes of Joanna Scanlan (After Love) and Eileen Atkins (Gosford Park), steal scenes at any opportunity with their endearing wit and charm.

The narrative may not always make sense but if looking to be moved and entertained, Wicked Little Letters is a good choice.