Phantom Thread is director Paul Thomas Anderson’s eight feature, and also the second time he’s worked with Daniel Day-Lewis following 2007’s magnificent There Will Be Blood, for which Day-Lewis deservedly picked up the Oscar for Actor in a Leading Role. This new outing for the pair couldn’t be further from the style and grittiness of Daniel Plainview’s world but it is, nevertheless, still a story of obsession and commitment to a cause that completes their character.
Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock who is, as expected, an intense fashion designer and dress-making genius at the top of his game in 1950’s post-war London. The House of Woodcock hold an exclusive clientele that’s full of Royals, famous actors, and socialites and so their work is constantly in the public eye but also must be of the upmost quality and style, and Reynolds oversees every single item with a concentrated scrutiny. Early on, we learn he’s in control of the house he shares with his Sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), and declares himself a perpetual bachelor, despite relationships with women who are expecting more from him long-term.
While there have been discussions over the dominating male elements to Reynolds, and that thought does have context, along the way he’s always very honest when going into relationships and, consequentially, most people appear to know what they’re getting themselves involved. However, all this changes dramatically when he meets Vicky Krieps beautiful, strong-willed Alma during a vacation away from London to a seaside Hotel. Alma works as a waitress and while his initial interactions with her seem a little uncomfortable in the modern world, it’s clear they instantly connect.
From that first meeting in the Victoria Hotel, ordering breakfast, they feel like equals. He’s enamoured by her as a woman, and she’s intrigued by his gentleman-like behaviour, even though it is also evident she’s a little unsure, and rightly so, of his intentions. Over the course of the film, she’ll grow in strength despite his demands for control, and this is why Phantom Thread is different and hugely impressive compared to other similar setups.
Phantom Thread has a serious nature from the outside but don’t be fooled by the persona that’s on top, underneath there’s a dark humour that lurks throughout, right up to an unexpected conclusion. Exquisitely shot with soft tungsten-type lighting and designed throughout to bring through the natural beauty of its performers, like the specimens our entire cast are, Thomas Anderson’s film is a veritable banquet of properness and pageantry but Alma is here to shake everything to its core.
Krieps plays Alma innocently in the early stages, and she’s also both calm and collected throughout, but there’s a fierce soul underneath that will come to fore as events move forward through time. Lesley Manville, as Reynolds robust and headstrong sister Cyril, is frankly exceptional and always in charge, even when her brother thinks he is. Daniel Day-Lewis is outstanding and from the outset you don’t even consider that he’s not Reynolds because every look, reaction and decision is effortlessly and stunningly created, it’s only sad he’s decided to retire because we’ll never have another actor like him.
With a delightful piano-based score from Jonny Greenwood, Phantom Thread is an absolute work of art. While I expected something a lot more abrupt and dangerous, Paul Thomas Anderson’s film is quite delicate, specific and beautiful, much like the fashion from The House of Woodcock itself.
Phantom Thread comes to Blu-ray and DVD on 18 June – Order now https://amzn.to/2JY8fMc