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Wicked Little Letters

“More true than you think” (opening credits)

Profane language, especially in the written word, is dicey for Americans. For Brits depicting a plague of gutter language written to a God-fearing spinster, Edith (Olivia Colman), is a riot of naughtiness. 1920’s Littlehampton, Sussex, investigates the anonymous writer expanding their poison pen to other wary residents, whose lives are usually circumscribed by gossip and taffy. This may be a true story.

Although the jokes are vintage, understated Brit, none is particularly laugh inducing in an odd crime that begs resolution. Easy enough, as Edith’s next-door neighbor, young Irish immigrant Rose ( Jessie Buckley, a comedic surprise) wildly qualifies for small-town prejudice. Writer Jonny Sweet’s vulgar dialogue is constantly creative while supplying local wannabe sleuths with a cause, while Colman and Buckley (last seen together in The Lost Daughter) spit the blue words in Oscar-worthy style.

Add that Rose walks around in “feet as bare as goose eggs” while Edith’s father (Timothy Spall) is tightly wound with a most intimidating moustache, almost lifted from early film comedies, and you have a hint of British farce.

Although the final resolution is never in doubt, the rambunctious, almost slapstick set-ups keep the amusement at high dudgeon, so the audience doesn’t get drowned in fusty Brit story-telling and old-time Irish hating. Keeping the proceedings at least moderately fair, is Woman Police Officer Gladys Ross (Anjana Vasan), whose own pride of office is constantly challenged by the decidedly paternalistic power structure.

Director Thea Sharrock and writer Jonny Sweet have crafted a small comedy saved from being one blue-trick pony by actors who make blue hairs smirk at every turn. Although Wicked Little Letters may not rise to the level of the recent Triangle of Sadness or Four Weddings and a Funeral, it is as soothing as lounging on the beach at a small seaside town after exhausting London.

Wicked Little Letters

Director: Thea Sharrock (Me Before You)

Screenplay: Jonny Sweet

Cast: Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose), Olivia Colman (Favourite)

Run Time: 1h 40m

Rating: R

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take (recently listed by Feedspot as two of the ten best NPR Movie Podcasts) out of WCBE 90.5 FM, Columbus, Ohio. Contact him at

John DeSando