In his Film of the Week column, Jamie Skinner reviews Wicked Little Letters, a British black comedy mystery film, released in cinemas on Friday 23rd.

Wicked Little Letters

Cert - 15, Run-time - 1 hour 40 minutes, Director - Thea Sharrock

When devout conservative Edith Swan (Olivia Colman) begins receiving profane letters her foul-mouthed neighbour Rose (Jessie Buckley) is blamed, however, Rose insists innocence.

The swearing in Wicked Little Letters never threatens Deadpool’s levels of creativity. For the most part this seems intentionally so, “no one swears like that” Jessie Buckley points out when trying to prove that it wasn’t her Rose Gooding who has been sending a series of profane letters across the town of Littlehampton. The finger has been firmly pointed at her since the first page of offensive correspondence dropped through the door of neighbour Edith Swan (Olivia Colman).

“In the end I think it’s just jealousy” Edith explains to the investigating police officer (Hugh Skinner) after the 19th letter. If jealousy is the case it’s been taken the point where Rose could be sent to prison. However, she insists innocence; why would she send these letters when: 1. she has her daughter (Alisha Weir) to think about, and 2. she could just say it. But, her language matches those in the letters, behaviour which Edith tried to steer her neighbour away from, seeing herself as a missionary, but instead causes Rose to be unwelcome at Christian Women’s Whist.

As expected, Colman and Buckley - previously starring in the much different The Lost Daughter, although never sharing the screen - bring joy to their roles as they, alongside the rest of the cast, are clearly having fun delivering the coarser lines of dialogue. Yet, much of the events depicted fall into the dramatic rather than the more clearly comedic beats, largely involving the profanities at hand. As mentioned, Rose worries about keeping her daughter safe, while Edith is controlled by her outraged father (Timothy Spall).

Such dramas are very much presented up front with little else beneath the surface of them. Even the investigation from police officer Gladys (Anjana Vasan - who truly shines when her character comes into her own in the third act), officially labelled as ‘Woman Police Officer Moss’, her job is to check in on the wellbeing of female victims of crime, has little subtleties in the background as fairly standard beats relating to 1920s sexism play out. For pretty much all the drama there’s very little below the surface, bringing in a convention which differs from the potential fun there is to be had from the more comedic elements.

It’s perhaps for this reason that the film feels like it lacks some resolve. While certainly wrapped up there are still point which feel left open, or rather unexplained, as if needing just a bit more detail to be fully rounded off, something which seems to be the case a few minutes before the actual ending starts to arrive. Yet, for what it does provide there’s enough amusement, if not anything overly raucous, within Wicked Little Letters - both the f-bomb laden dialogue and the jokes on the side from them - to make for untroubling viewing. Largely pushed by a cast who are getting a kick out of the material they’re given.

Jamie Skinner, three stars ***