Wicked Little Letters tells the tale of a 1920s English town rocked by an unexpected scandal. When the deeply religious and conservative Edith becomes the target of a profane and explicit letter campaign, she accuses her neighbor Rose of penning the missives. But as Rose protests her innocence, the letter-writer sets their sights on even more targets. Soon, the whole town ends up involved in either receiving letters or trying to track down who’s sending them.

Wicked Little Letters offers up a delightfully fun mystery. It’s hard to say what gets bigger laughs: the over-the-top, strange, foul-mouthed insults in the letters themselves (“you foxy-ass old whore”) or the scandalized reactions of the characters reading them. As much as the characters dread receiving a letter, as the audience you’ll eagerly await the next reading to see what bizarre and unhinged comments the letter-writer will put down next.

Of course, selling these scandalous moments works best with an impressive cast, which Wicked Little Letters definitely boasts. Olivia Colman is delightful (as always) as Edith Swan, the repressed, holier-than-thou type who’s the initial target of the letters’ smear campaign. Colman has such great range as an actor; she gives emotional depth to Edith in her most quiet, reserved moments, managing to let you hate the character a bit and feel sorry for her all at once. Also, you simply can’t go wrong letting Colman utter an unhinged string of curses and profanities. It hits every time.

Olivia Colman as Edith in Wicked Little Letters

Jessie Buckley’s Rose also serves as the perfect foil to Colman’s Edith. Rose doesn’t care what people think about her, and isn’t going to live her life according to anyone else’s rules. She’s bold and loud and unapologetic, but always in a completely charming way. Buckley gets plenty to play with here, especially in Rose’s more introspective, quieter moments.

However, though the characters themselves are fun, their consistency and development is sometimes shuffled to the side to ensure the machinations of the plot. For instance, despite Rose’s incredibly active, outspoken, ready-for-battle nature, she spends the height of her trial taking very little action to prove her innocence or solve the mystery of the letters herself. Similarly, outside of Edith, Rose, and Gladys (Anjana Vasan), the other women in town tend to disappear completely until they’re called upon for one specific plot function (like bailing Rose out of jail). It sometimes felt like Wicked Little Letters had too many characters to juggle and wasn’t sure how to keep them all involved and relevant.

Another issue with the film is the way the social commentary feels a little threadbare. The movie deeply dives into the misogyny of the time, and does a great job demonstrating how period-typical sexism affects the characters in different ways. However, Wicked Little Letters cherry-picks its relevant social issues to challenge in the film, which makes the issues it chooses to ignore feel glaring. In particular, this applies to the story’s characters of color. 

It feels disingenuous to make a point that the town is unhappy with Rose’s Irish heritage and the fact that she’s living with a man she isn’t married to, and act like the fact that her partner is also Black is a non-issue. Similarly, much ado is made about Gladys being a woman police officer, but there’s no reference at all to her being one of the few POC on the police force. I don’t mean to say that a period piece needs to focus on period-typical racism to be a good film. It’s just that when ethnic prejudices do already play a role in the story (Rose encounters plenty of anti-Irish sentiment from the English townsfolk, so we’re not living in a fantasy past without racism), selectively addressing those prejudices doesn’t really land well.

Jessie Buckley as Rose in in Wicked Little Letters

Despite this misstep, Wicked Little Letters overall delivers a pretty enjoyable experience. The mystery of the letters’ origins and the courtroom drama are compelling, if at times predictable, and the cast gives great performances that are sure to leave you laughing. This one is just a fun, easy watch.

Wicked Little Letters premieres in theaters nationwide April 5.