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Review: Wicked Little Letters. A bittersweet feud

  • Release year: 2024
  • Director: Thea Sharrock.
  • Producers: Graham Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Peter Czernin, Ed Sinclair and Jo Wallett.
  • Screenplay by: Jonny Sweet.
  • Cinematographer: Ben Davis.
  • Music Supervisor: Nick Angel.

Synopsis: tired of receiving insulting anonymous letters, a lady sues her neighbour, whom she suspects is behind the offensive mail.

Shotgun Commentary: brilliant essay on sisterhood and gender-based psychological violence.

Olivia Coleman as Edith Swan, Jessie Buckley as Rose Gooding in Wicked Little Letters. Photographer: Parisa Taghizadeh. Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics.

Review

Wicked Little Letters follows Rosie Gooding (Jessie Buckley), an Irish single mother, from the moment she is accused of writing the cruel letters, until this matter is resolved.

The female characters of this story offer different perspectives of the female situation after the war. Together, they showcase a sexist society that has evolved way less than we’d like to think, exposing different sexist behaviours through comedy and sass.

The hero

To understand the story fully, one must pay attention to the different women involved. The most important being Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan). She is the first female police officer in Littlehampton, where the conflict takes place.

Other than the obvious, like shutting her up and making her do nonsensical things instead of police work, she is constantly being dismissed. Her peers call her pet names instead of her rank, ask her for tea, and so on. While the work space has improved for women, a lot of them are still being harassed or treated differently due to their gender.

Anjana Vasan as Gladys Moss in Wicked Little Letters. Photo credit: Parisa Taghizadeh. Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics.

These actions of disparage resonate with women nowadays, making the film extremely relevant for modern audiences. The connection serves to sympathise with Gladys and to underscore certain seldom-mentioned conducts that are not ok.

The victim(s)

As for Rosie Gooding, she is a woman ahead of her time, loud, bold and brave. She never lets any man boss her around, which causes jealousy to grow in her neighbour, Edith Swan (Olivia Colman). Swan is a spinster who is constantly mistreated by her father. He abuses her psychologically so that she will stay home to take care of him forever. Both her and her mother are treated like slaves, but neither draw a line nor put him in his place.

Rosie is arrested despite the lack of logic in Edith’s statement. This takes place essentially because the men of the town are afraid that Rosie will cause women to open their eyes and be as independent and powerful as her. Instead, they choose to believe tame, shy Edith, with whom they feel more comfortable. The whole situation highlights not only the men’s predictable behaviour, which is to be afraid of not having women to serve them and feed their ego, but, tragically, also women’s conduct.

Olivia Coleman as Edith Swan in Wicked Little Letters. Photo credit: Parisa Taghizadeh. Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics.

Silent guidelines

Women are brainwashed since they are little to believe to their very cores that their job is to please men. Especially back in the 20s, their education was limited to how to keep the house clean and the husband happy. Not so much on how to be an intelligent, capable member of society. For this reason, every time a woman stood out, she was generally met with distrust, judgement and even violence, from men AND women.

Still today, women learn to see other women as competition. They are taught to have the need to be better than. Their reproductive rights are still being decided by a bunch of men, as well as their dress code and which activities are acceptable for them to participate in. The media and politics treat women as another commodity that needs to be regulated or as children who need to be shown the way because they don’t know any better. This reality and the perfect portrayal the film does of it is why, sadly, Wicked Little Letters is a very bittersweet feature.

The individual choice

Other women in the village fill in the gaps to create a more complete vision of womanhood in that period. The complete opposites are brought by the two elder ladies of the village: Victoria Swan (Gemma Jones) and Mabel (Eileen Atkins). Despite being brought up in roughly the same conditions and timeframe, the first is so conservative that a very indecent letter actually manages to kill her, while the last is Rosie’s biggest fan.

Olivia Coleman as Edith Swan, Gemma Jones as Victoria Swan in Wicked Little Letters. Photo credit: Parisa Taghizadeh. Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics.

These contrasting personalities represent a reality that still lives on. A life in which certain individuals from older generations choose to evolve and improve through their years of experience, and others choose to remain still as if time will stop with them. The difference lies in how far you let your surroundings mould you and where you choose to set your limits since, despite what a lot of people might want you to think, you are the only one who can limit your freedom.

Morality, religion, hypocrisy, appearances and progress all come together in this hilarious, multi-layered comedy that will make you laugh, cry with emotion and shake in rage. A fascinating experience and totally worth seeing.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • Women are not servants, don’t let anyone tell you any different.
  • Men can be rats, and it’s okay to leave them. It is not your job to put up with them, nor is it to change them.
  • Gender has nothing to do with ability.
Anjana Vasan as Gladys Moss, Lolly Adefope as Kate, Joanna Scanlan as Ann in Wicked Little Letters. Photo credit: Parisa Taghizadeh. Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics.

What’s your take? Have you watched Wicked Little Letters? Did you also find it bittersweet, or just hilarious? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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