Showing posts with label Wicked Little Letters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wicked Little Letters. Show all posts

Thursday, April 11, 2024

"Wicked Little Letters," "Saltburn" and "Book of Love:" It's British Movie Week!

[I review three British films: "Wicked Little Letters," "Saltburn" and "Book of Love"]

When the residents of Littlehampton, England start receiving anonymous insulting and profane poison pen letters, Rose, the less than proper newcomer from Ireland, is blamed.  But is she really the culprit?

It's the 1920's in the small town of Littlehampton, England, and it's Edith Swan (Olivia Colman), who first receives profane and bullying letters (remember when we wrote letters?  Now we can just bully people online).  

Edith is a pious spinster living with her controlling father, Edward (Timothy Spall), and her mother Victoria (Gemma Jones). After receiving 19 letters filled with profanities, Edward contacts the local police accusing their next-door neighbor, Rose Gooding (Jesse Buckley), of sending the letters.  Rose is an easy target because the Swans do not approve of Rose.  Where they are very religious and upright, Rose has no problem doing what she pleases, telling people off when she feels like it using some choice profane words, living with a man who is not her husband, having loud sex, and drinking and carrying on in the pub. Rose and Edith started out as friends but after Rose headbutted one of Edward's guests at his birthday party and refused to apologize, their friendship ended. And truth be told, Rose isn't that easy to like.  

So Rose is arrested and not being able to come up with bail is sent to Portsmouth Prison to await trial, leaving her young daughter, Nancy (Alisha Weir), in the care of her partner, Bill (Malachi Kirby).

In the meantime, police officer, Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan) is not so sure that Rose is the culprit and gets involved in the case, despite the fact that her boss, Chief Constable Spedding (Paul Chahidi) forbids her to. Let's just say that women police officers in the 1920's didn't get much respect, but Gladys's father was a police officer and she can't help herself.  She believes an injustice is being done.  She enlists the help of  Edith's friends - Ann (Joanna Scanlan), Mabel (Eileen Atkins) and Kate (Lolly Adefope) - and they all take on the case. Mabel and Ann like Rose and don't think she is guilty so they bail Rose out of the prison and, with Gladys, set out to prove her innocence.

Though I figured out who the letter-writer was way before it was revealed on screen, it didn't matter, because watching the story, written by Jonny Sweet and directed by Thea Sharrock, unfold was a delight.  Thank goodness for the Brits and these "little movies" they are able to produce, full of recognizable character actors and interesting stories.  Olivia Colman is wonderful, as expected, and though Jesse Buckley might not be a name you recognize, she is a veteran actress who made a big splash in "Wild Rose" in 2018, starred in Season 4 of the TV series "Fargo,"  and more recently in the movie "Women Talking." The two together are a wonderful treat.

The film is quirky and fun and actually based on a true story that made national news in England in the early part of the 20th century, but it's also a reminder of what women have gone through in a patriarchal world. Gladys is always referred to as "Woman Police Officer Moss" by her male fellow officers, a passive-aggressive put-down of her role, and Rose is targeted because she doesn't fit the mold of obedient housewife, instead living life on her own terms.  If she doesn't fit the mold, she must be guilty of something, right?

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are tired of superheroes and horror films, take a break and check out the comedy and drama in Littlehampton.  You won't be disappointed. (In theatres) 

Saltburn (2023)

Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) is a seemingly shy, awkward Oxford student who is befriended by Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), a handsome charismatic classmate, who invites him to Saltburn, his family's estate, for the summer and it turns out to be a summer of death and destruction.

Oliver Quick is having a difficult time fitting in at Oxford.  He is a poor kid amidst England's elite, but when he meets Felix Catton, a rich, popular student and shares his story about growing up poor, his parents' substance abuse and mental health issues, Felix is sympathetic.  Then when Oliver tells Felix that his father has died, Felix invites him for the summer at his family's country estate, Saltburn. Oliver is over the moon because he is obsessed with Felix. And then he wants to be him.

At Saltburn, Oliver meets Felix's parents, Sir James (Richard E. Grant) and Lady Elspeth (Rosamund Pike); Felix's sister, Venetia (Alison Oliver); Elspeth's friend, Poor Dear Pamela (Carey Mulligan); and Felix's American cousin, Farleigh (Archie Madekwe).  Oliver is welcomed into the family, and Elspeth is especially taken with him, but Farleigh is suspicious. All is well until Felix discovers that Oliver is not all that he seems and the summer turns deadly. Years later, the truth about what happened that summer at Saltburn comes out.

Written and directed by Emerald Fennell, who also wrote and directed "Promising Young Woman (she won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay)," this is a tale of class and social climbing that is reminiscent of "The Talented Mr. Ripley," a story that has been the plot of many films but here there is much more kinky stuff going on, particularly the scenes where Oliver...well, Oliver does all kinds of deviant stuff.  The bathtub scene and the one on the grave are particularly cringey. You will have to see for yourself. If you saw "Promising Young Woman," you know that Fennell is not afraid to "go there."

The acting ensemble is first rate with veteran actors Grant and Pike. Pike is particularly mean-spirited in a funny upper class way. Fans of the recent movie, "Priscilla," will recognize the handsome Elordi as Elvis in that and here he effortlessly again plays an object of desire.  But this is Keoghan's film as he goes from adoration of Felix to envy and resentment and reveals the real Oliver. His Oliver exudes both subservient charm and weird creepiness. And a shout-out to production designer Suzie Davies and cinematographer, Linus Sandgren.  The film is beautiful to look at.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a stylish (and kinky) gothic thriller that satirizes class and social climbing. (Amazon Prime) 

Book of Love (2022)

A British novelist whose book is not selling in the U.K. discovers that it is a big hit in...Mexico!  When he travels there to do a book tour, he discovers why.

Henry Copper (Sam Claflin) is an uptight Englishman who has written a novel called "The Sensible Heart," which is a romance novel, but it lacks passion, as in no sex.  Therefore, no one wants to read it. But then Henry's publisher, Jen (Lucy Punch), tells him that his book is number one --- in Mexico.  Henry has no social media skills, so his publisher says that he needs to go to Mexico to promote the book.

When he arrives, Henry meets Maria (Veronica Echegui), the person who translated his book, and she and the Mexican publisher, Pedro (Horacio Villalobos), along with her son, Diego (Ruy Gaytan), and grandfather, Max (Fernando Becerril), take Henry on a three-city tour with Maria acting as Henry's translator. After getting over his culture shock, Henry is enthusiastically welcomed at the book signings, especially by avid female fans, but Henry is confused because everyone is talking about sex. His book is NOT about sex, or so he thought.  But, ahem, now it is. And he is perceived as a sort of love guru by his fans. It turns out that Maria has not only translated Henry's book, she has rewritten it, transforming it into a steamy, bodice-ripping romance novel! 

This is a good old-fashioned opposites attract rom-com written by Analeine Cal y Mahor and David Quantick and directed by Cal y Mahor. Maria is a no-nonsense Latina who has always wanted to write and Henry is a buttoned-up Brit.  She has had a hard life serving men in a neighborhood bar and putting her own dreams aside and she resents what she perceives as Henry's easy life. And Henry is a kind of clueless prude who needs loosening up.  But after lots of arguments and misunderstandings, and some interference from Maria's ex, Antonio (Horacio Garcia Rojas), Henry does loosen up and the two create a romance of their own. 

The handsome Claflin recently starred in "Daisy Jones and the Six" and once again plays a brooding leading man but this time an uncool one. Echegui reminded me of a young Penelope Cruz. She is engaging and likable, and the two create a charming little fish-out-of-water love story that is fun to watch.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a rom-com fan, this is a sweet, satisfying one with an interesting premise. (Amazon Prime - in English and Spanish)

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

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And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!