Wicked Little Letters review: "An ultimately rather cosy tale of British eccentricity"

Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley in Wicked Little Letters (2023)
(Image: © Studiocanal)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

An ultimately rather cosy tale of British eccentricity, enlivened by a superb cast.

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

A real-life 1920s scandal - one that’s enough to turn the air blue - takes center stage in director Thea Sharrock’s dark comedy. Wicked Little Letters is set in the quaint English coastal town of Littlehampton, where residents begin receiving a series of foul-mouthed anonymous letters. 

Accusations are levelled at Rose (Jessie Buckley), an Irish immigrant and single mum viewed with suspicion by some - notably pious neighbour Edith (Olivia Colman), who still lives with her parents (Timothy Spall, Gemma Jones) and seems envious of Rose’s free-spirited ways. 

When the police (Hugh Skinner, Paul Chahidi) are called, little progress in the case is made. Only Gladys (Anjana Vasan, from We are Lady Parts), an intuitive WPC, has the sense to believe that Rose might not be the guilty party. But of course, this being 1920, she’s patronised by the patriarchy, her hunches ignored. 

Colman and Buckley - who previously played the same character at different ages in 2021’s The Lost Daughter - are eminently watchable here. They’re also supported by a uniformly excellent cast, from the sublime Vasan to the likes of Jason Watkins, Joanna Scanlan, and Eileen Atkins. 

The main sticking point is the tone. Director Sharrock (Me Before You, The One and Only Ivan) doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with Jonny Sweet’s screenplay, which erratically mixes dark humor (the tirades of four-letter words in the misanthropic missives) with wider social issues (women’s suffrage, domestic violence). 

Throughout, there’s a tendency to descend into farce, which yields laughs, but ultimately hampers these Letters’ potential to say something more profound.

Wicked Little Letters is in UK cinemas from February 23. It will then hit select US theaters on March 29 before opening wide on April 5. 

More info

Available platformsMovie
Freelance writer

James Mottram is a freelance film journalist, author of books that dive deep into films like Die Hard and Tenet, and a regular guest on the Total Film podcast. You'll find his writings on GamesRadar+ and Total Film, and in newspapers and magazines from across the world like The Times, The Independent, The i, Metro, The National, Marie Claire, and MindFood.