(director: Thea Sharrock; screenwriter: Jonny Sweet; cinematographer: Ben Davis; editor: Melanie Oliver; music: Crazy Blues; cast: Jessie Buckley (Rose Gooding), Olivia Colman (Edith Swan), Timothy Spall (Edward Swan), Gemma Jones (Victoria Swan), Malachi Kirby (Bill), Alisha Weir (Nancy Gooding), Hugh Skinner (Constable Papperwick), Paul Chahidi (Constable Spedding), Anjana Vasan (Moss), Eileen Atkins (Mabel), Joanna Scanlan (Ann), Lolly Adefope (Kate); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Graham Broadbent, Ed Sinclair, Olivia Colman, Pete Czernin, Jo Wallett; Sony Picture Classics; 2023-UK/USA/France)

“It’s a comedy of manners, whose broad humor never connected with me.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

The long-time theater director Thea Sharrock (“Me Before You”/”The One and Only Ivan”) directs and the comedian Jonny Sweet writes the script. It’s a tiresome and shrill farcical mystery period comedy set on the sleepy English seaside village of Littlehampton in Sussex, in the 1920s. It follows the bizarre true story (which is fictionalized in parts) of two opposite neighbors: the forty-something conservative spinster puritan Edith Swan (Olivia Colman) and the unruly and socially unacceptable remarried to a Black man (Malachi Kirby) with a young daughter from another man (Alisha Weir), the war widow Irish immigrant Rose Gooding (Jessie Buckley). Edith receives anonymous wicked poison pen letters filled with profanities meant to be funny, and the prime suspect is the potty-mouthed Rose. She’s charged with the crime, but there’s no proof she’s the culprit.

It plays out as an underwhelming sitcom comedy of finding out who is behind the hate mail, and is filled with filthy language.

The talented Colman gives a dispiriting performance to Buckley’s Wild Irish Rose’s more constrained one.

The prim Edith lives at home with her mum (Gemma Jones) and her domineering cartoonish volatile dad (Timothy Spall). She receives a number of vulgar letters that go like this: “Dear Edith, you foxy-ass old whore.” Dad goes nuts when he reads them.

The town’s only female police officer, a woman of color, Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan), believes Rose is innocent. While her fellow white police constables accuse Rose. Gladys ignores them to investigate further.

It’s a comedy of manners, whose broad humor never connected with me.

It played at the Toronto Film Festival.