Wickedly Funny and Unbelievably True

Wickedly Funny and Unbelievably True

Review: Wicked Little Letters

Wicked Little Letters, a British black comedy directed by Thea Sharrock, is more than just a hilarious whodunit. It’s a film based on a real-life scandal that throws light on societal norms and the complexities of female friendships in a bygone era. Anchored by powerhouse performances from Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley, the film delivers a potent blend of humour, mystery, and social commentary.

The story unfolds in the quaint seaside town of Littlehampton. Edith, played by the ever-reliable Colman, is a pillar of the community – pious, proper, and perpetually scandalised. Her world is turned upside down when she receives an anonymous letter dripping with profanity and vicious barbs. Soon, the poison pen strikes again, targeting other residents with equally outrageous and obscene diatribes.

Enter Rose, played by the feisty Buckley, Edith’s fiery next-door neighbour. A single mother with a penchant for strong language and a nonconformist lifestyle, Rose becomes the prime suspect in the eyes of the uptight townsfolk. The film masterfully utilizes the stark contrast between these two women.  Colman brings a delightful mix of naiveté and repressed frustration to Edith, while Buckley imbues Rose with an infectious energy and a defiant spirit.

As the investigation, spearheaded by the wonderful Anjana Vasan as the lone female police officer,  unravels, the film delves deeper into the lives of the women in Littlehampton. We see the constraints placed upon them by a rigid social structure and the stifling expectations of the time. The “wicked letters,” though shockingly vulgar, become a catalyst for introspection and a subversive form of female empowerment.

The true brilliance of Wicked Little Letters lies in its ability to mine humour from a situation rooted in real-life events. The script, penned by Jonny Sweet, takes creative liberty with the details, but the core of the story remains true.  In 1921, a string of anonymous letters, signed “The Hove Avenger,” terrorised the residents of Hove, a seaside town near Littlehampton. The letters, filled with obscene language and accusations, targeted individuals deemed to be immoral or hypocritical. The scandal, fuelled by media frenzy, captivated the nation, and exposed the underbelly of a seemingly respectable society.

The film cleverly weaves historical context into the narrative without bogging down the comedic pace. We see glimpses of the social anxieties of the post-WWI era, the changing role of women, and the burgeoning fight for equality. These elements add depth and weight to the otherwise light-hearted whodunit.

Colman and Buckley deliver stellar performances as the unlikely duo at the centre of the mystery. Their on-screen chemistry is a delight to watch, as their initial animosity gradually gives way to understanding and even a grudging respect. The supporting cast, including seasoned veterans like Timothy Spall and Gemma Jones, provide excellent comic relief and emotional grounding.

Wicked Little Letters is not just a laugh-out-loud comedy; it’s a film that celebrates female resilience and the power of female friendship. It reminds us that even in the face of societal constraints, women can find humour, strength, and unexpected allies in the most unlikely places. The knowledge that these events actually transpired adds another layer of intrigue and compels us to consider the social commentary embedded within the comedic chaos.

For those who don’t like swearing in films, be advised this is a potty-mouthed British comedy about an entirely true story.

For those looking for a film that will tickle your funny bone while also making you think, catch Wicked Little Letters at the cinema while you can. It’s a testament to the enduring power of truth, the unexpected turns of life, and the sheer audacity of a good old-fashioned scandal.

Wicked Little Letters in playing in select cinemas, will be available to rent in June and be available to stream on Disney + From July 8


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