Shropshire Star

Film Talk: Olivia Colman is leading charge in black comedy Wicked Little Letters

She’s acting royalty. It’s as simple as that. And, in fact, she’s played two real queens to perfection.

National treasure Olivia Colman stars as Edith Swan in director Thea Sharrock’s new black comedy mystery film, Wicked Little Letters

When looking back to Peep Show I find it hard to believe that this bit of light-hearted fluff (that to be honest I was never much of a fan of) was the world’s true introduction to the talent that is Olivia Colman.

Having outshone everyone else in this Channel 4 sitcom, Queen Liv’s film and telly career took off, eventually hitting stratospheric heights with a Best Actress Oscar win.

Before this she had delivered a sublime performance in acclaimed ITV drama, Broadchurch, had delighted comedy fans everywhere in Hot Fuzz, and had got her ‘Christie’ on in Murder on the Orient Express.

From 2019 to 2020 she followed up her Academy Award-winning portrayal of Queen Anne in The Favourite with a stint as Elizabeth II in The Crown, and has dipped her toe in Doctor Who, The Simpsons, and even the MCU.

To us mere mortals, it seems that there is nothing that Olivia Colman can’t do, and to say that this incredible British-born and bred star is a national treasure is a monstrous understatement. Like Tom Hardy, Tom Hanks and our old boy Leo, her name on a cast list is enough to compel me to watch anything – and I doubt I’m alone in this.

This week, Commodore Colman is leading the charge in Wicked Little Letters – Thea Sharrock’s new black comedy mystery yarn that will see whodunnit fans aplenty flocking to the flicks this weekend.

But even with a cast featuring other home-grown titans such as Timothy Spall and Gemma Jones, does this one measure up to usual Colman calibre? God save the Queen... Let’s do this...


Released: February 23 (UK & Ireland)

“This is more true than you’d think,” teasingly promises director Thea Sharrock’s gloriously foul-mouthed comedy drama, based on a genuine poison pen letter case that scandalised post-First World War Britain and vaunted the sleepy seaside town of Littlehampton onto the front pages of national newspapers.

Exhumed from history by award-winning comedian and screenwriter Jonny Sweet, Wicked Little Letters revels in the tightly buttoned attitudes of an era when female police officers were casually disregarded by the old boys’ network and handwriting analysis lacked any scientific credibility in proving a suspect’s innocence.

Sweet’s script doesn’t hold back with the expletives, rifling through a vast lexicon of crude language in less than two hours including one expertly timed c-bomb.

Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee would surely endorse this wanton and enthusiastic appropriation of profanities in service of an otherwise cosy and sweet-natured whodunnit.

The identity of the potty-mouthed pensmith is evident to any fan of Murder, She Wrote or Scooby-Doo before Sharrock formally unmasks them on screen.

However, the devilishness is in the details of interpersonal relationships between strong female characters, embodied with fervour by Jessie Buckley, Olivia Colman and Anjana Vasan.

With one notable exception, men are portrayed as bullies, bigots, buffoons or slaves to close-minded patriarchal rule. God-fearing spinster Edith Swan (Colman) lives in the quiet coastal community with her iron-fisted father Edward (Timothy Spall) and mother Victoria (Gemma Jones), conducting herself in accordance with Christian teachings.

Edith befriends her rambunctious next-door neighbour Rose Gooding (Buckley), an Irish single mother who speaks her mind regardless of the consequences.

The two women are polar opposites and Edward Swan vehemently opposes his daughter fraternising with a foul-mouthed immigrant, who shares a chaotic home with her young daughter Nancy (Alisha Weir) and new boyfriend Bill (Malachi Kirby).

Following an altercation at Edward’s birthday party, Edith begins to receive hateful handwritten missives full of blush-inducing slurs.

The Swans are convinced that Rose is the culprit and Edith reluctantly makes a statement to Constable Papperwick (Hugh Skinner) at the police station.

As Rose stands trial, fellow officer Gladys Moss (Vasan) defies her superior, Constable Spedding (Paul Chahidi), to challenge the evidence and expose the real culprit with the help of residents Ann (Joanna Scanlan) and Mabel (Eileen Atkins).

Aside from one well-timed blow to the head with a shovel, Wicked Little Letters inflicts damage with verbal grenades tossed around with visible relish by a fine ensemble cast.

Buckley and Colman are spirited sparring partners and Spall exudes menace as a fusty patriarch wielding insidious control over his terrified daughter. Sweet’s script careens like an excitable puppy between hot-button topics including domestic violence, institutional sexism and xenophobia but doesn’t dwell long enough with any issue to dig satisfyingly beneath the surface. Naughty but nice.


Released: February 23 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

In the follow-up to the 2023 Japanese animated fantasy Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba – To The Swordsmith Village, Haruo Sotozaki returns to the director’s chair for a tense next chapter based on the manga series written and illustrated by Koyoharu Gotouge.

Tanjiro Kamado (voiced by Natsuki Hanae) continues his quest to restore the humanity of his demonically possessed sister Nezuko (Akari Kito) by becoming a Hashira under mentor Gyomei Himejima (Tomokazu Sugita).

Training is intense and gruelling but necessary for Tanjiro to achieve his goals.

Meanwhile, demon king Muzan Kibutsuji (Toshihiko Seki) pursues his own quest to track down Nezuko alongside three surviving members of the Kizuki clan.

MEMORY (UK 15/ROI 16, 99 mins)

Released: February 23 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Memory: Peter Sarsgaard as Saul and Jessica Chastain as Sylvia

Peter Sarsgaard won the coveted Best Actor prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival for his performance in writer-director Michel Franco’s emotionally wrought drama.

Social worker and care worker Sylvia (Jessica Chastain) is a recovering alcoholic – 13 years sober – who lives in Brooklyn with her teenage daughter Anna (Brooke Timber).

She is estranged from her mother Samantha (Jessica Harper) but maintains family ties with her sister Olivia (Merritt Wever).

Reluctantly, Sylvia attends a high school reunion and she is reunited with Saul (Peter Sarsgaard), who follows her home.

It transpires that Saul has early-onset dementia and requires constant care from his brother Isaac (Josh Charles).

Sylvia agrees to take up a position as Saul’s carer and she uses the experience to exorcise terrifying ghosts of her past.

AMERICAN STAR (UK 15/ROI 15A TBC, 107 mins)

Released: February 23 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

American Star: lan McShane as Wilson

A veteran hitman carries out his supposedly final job in a deliberately slow-paced thriller written by Nacho Faerna and directed by Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego.

Hired killer Wilson (Ian McShane) heads for the Atlantic Ocean and Fuerteventura, the second largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, to eliminate a target he has never met.

The contract is delayed and Wilson savours the local culture, befriending bartender Gloria (Nora Arnezeder), who eventually introduces him to her mother Anne (Fanny Ardant).

When the clock starts ticking again on Wilson’s job, his focus has shifted. Adding to the sense of urgency, rival hitman Ryan (Adam Nagaitis) is also on the island and may have been dispatched to tie up one obvious loose end: Wilson.

OUT OF DARKNESS (UK 15/ROI 15A, 87 mins)

Released: February 23 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Chuku Modu leads the tribe in Out Of Darkness

Scottish director Andrew Cumming makes his feature film debut with a survival thriller set 45,000 years ago, written for the screen by Ruth Greenberg.

During the Stone Age, Adem (Chuku Modu) leads a tribe of early humans in search of a new land to call home.

The six-strong party includes Adem’s pregnant mate Ave (Iola Evans), warrior Geirr (Kit Young), elder Odal (Arno Luning), youngster Heron (Luna Mwezi) and outcast Beyah (Safia Oakley-Green).

It is a time of brutality and superstition, and the group works together to hunt for food and survive the treacherous terrain.

But Adem and his party are being stalked by something that lurks in the darkness.

HAMLET (UK 12A/ROI 12A, 118 mins)

Released: February 27 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

For one night only, Sir Ian McKellen assumes the lead role in Sean Mathias’s bold reimagining of Shakespeare’s tragedy, recorded in various rooms and performance spaces of the Theatre Royal Windsor. Jenny Seagrove and Jonathan Hyde also star.

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