Olivia Colman Is Incapable of Being Anything But Spectacular. If Only Her Movie Was as Good.

Courtest of TIFF

TORONTO, Canada—Wicked Little Letters belongs to that subgenre of twee European dramedies—think The Full Monty, Calendar Girls, Kinky Boots, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and its ilk—in which accomplished actors star as peculiar characters in stories defined by unexpectedly mature and/or eccentric twists. In the case of Thea Sharrock’s based-on-a-true-story film (which premiered Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival), quirkiness comes in the form of profane X-rated missives that arrive via the postal service at the home of a devout local woman, thereby instigating an inquiry, accusations, and legal action. It’s a cursefest most cute, designed to make older audiences giggle with astonished glee at naughty words and hostile rivalries, and were it not for the participation of Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley, it would be an insufferable groaner rather than merely an inoffensive one.

In the quaint British seaside town of Littlehampton in the post-WWI 1920s, Edith Swan (Colman) upholds the highest moral standards at the behest of her parents Edward (Timothy Spall) and Victoria (Gemma Jones), with whom she has always resided. With flat hair that’s parted on the side and slightly wavy as it extends toward her ears, Edith is a pious Christian whose greatest fear is succumbing to pride regarding her staunch faith, although hers is not a happy household. For one, her father is a stern taskmaster who sees his daughter as a perpetual subservient child obliged to be at his beck and call. Of more immediate concern, however, are the communiques that arrive with alarming regularity and contain slander whose ugliness is only matched by its weirdness. Slamming Edith as “you funny ass old whore,” “tricky old fuck” and “sad stinky bitch” (to cite just three of innumerable insults), the dispatches are an exercise in uninhibited foul-mouthed fury.

Who could be sending such memos? All fingers point toward Edith’s next-door neighbor Rose Gooding (Buckley), and with significant reason. Living in her flat with her rambunctious guitar-loving daughter (Amy Lee Ronaldson) and her Black boyfriend (Malachi Kirby), who is not the girl’s father, Rose is a wild child with a secret past and a mouth to make a sailor blush, spewing an unending torrent of expletives whether she’s at home, in the street or at the pub downing pints with rowdy boozehounds. As a single mother and Irish immigrant who refuses to kowtow to normal standards of decorum, she’s an outlier who’s looked down upon by the area’s traditionalists, chief among them Edward, whose every glance in Rose’s direction seems intended to cause her to drop dead on the spot.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *