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Wicked Little Letters makes the F-word fun

In The Lost Daughter Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley both earned Oscar nominations playing the same character at different ages. Reteaming for Wicked Little Letters, they portray women at different ends of a spectrum. As Edie, Colman acts the repressed religious fanatic, while Buckley’s Rose raucously flouts rules and conservative deportment. This makes Rose the logical perpetrator when Edie starts receiving a passel of obscene letters, a crime in the duo’s small English village just after World War I. Facing a prison sentence with years of hard labor, Rose’s only hope comes from a person she already offended, the town’s first and only female police officer. The story announces itself as quote “more true than you think,” which in movie terms means something like this sort of happened once. Historian Emily Cockayne wrote up the proceedings in her book, with screenwriter Johnny Sweet stepping in to transform events into an order more pleasing and amusing for audiences than full-out reality provided. His touches add humor to a story that actually involves darker elements of classism, racism, sexism, jealously, and mental illness. Bouncy piano music signals the switch to lighter tone, with steady direction by Thea Sharrock allowing her fine cast to run with the gags.  These include catching the letter writer red-handed, a scheme with Anjana Vassan’s police officer running an unlikely group of women helpers comprised of Eileen Atkins, Lolly Adefo

pe and Joanna Scanlan. Familiar faces like those of Timothy Spall and Gemma Jones enhance the mix though not surprisingly, the funniest moments come from interactions between Colman and Buckley. Displaying a warm, energetic smile and exuberance, Buckley spouts out F-words with the frequency of Joe Pesci, but the script adds even more creativity and enthusiasm for variations on the theme than he usually displays. The result proves comical rather than offensive for a wicked little film showcasing actors having fun.

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