This could have been a very good film. In fact, it almost touches on greatness, and the difference is largely down to the powerhouse performances of Oliva Colman and Jessie Buckley, who lead a very strong cast. Jonny Sweet’s well-constructed script re-tells a largely true story which rocked the peaceful town of Littlehampton in 1920. Spinsterish pillar of the community Edith Swan (Colman) begins receiving profanity-laced poison pen letters and immediately suspects her freewheeling neighbour (Buckley). Only “Woman Police Office” Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan) suspects that the culprit might not be so obvious.

Littered with a wealth of comedy acting talent from newer faces like Vasan or Lolly Adefope (or Matilda herself, Alisha Weir) to stalwart campaigners like Eileen Atkins and Gemma Jones, this is a constant delight and you’re never far from another wonderful bit of business, sharp one-liner or marvellous moment. But there’s an extra bit of ballast which comes from the incredibly layered and detailed playing of the two leads, given extra weight by a truly sinister turn from a terrifying Timothy Spall, embodying the patriarchy as Edith’s horrendous father.

Director Thea Sharrock marshals these competing forces expertly, and while this has no aspirations to be much more than a delightful 100 minutes at the cinema, that is no small feat, and when it can touch on something a bit deeper or more profound, it does so without capsizing the whole enterprise. If you loved See How They Run, then you’ll enjoy this just as much. It isn’t quite as intricately constructed, but it’s arguably got more to say.

American Fiction