Phantom Thread Review
Review by Owen Herman
Although it will be best known for being Daniel Day-Lewis’ (supposedly) last ever film, Phantom Thread deserves to be remembered for its own merits and the fact that it is up there with the very best of Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpieces. Like with his other great films, PTA has crafted a deep and complex drama that is rich in meaning and emotion. Phantom Thread both shocked and moved me, and it really managed to stay with me in ways very few films manage to do.
Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a hugely successful dressmaker in 1950s England. Reynolds is a difficult man who leads a precise and delicately controlled life with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville). His life is upturned when he falls for a young waitress, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who at first seems to be a young girl just infatuated by the older man, but soon reveals a deeper affection and cunning to match Reynolds’ own. The film is an intense and often dark look at the difficulties of relationships and the steps that must be taken to make them work. Beneath the surface it also carries themes of motherly love, obsession, and desire for control. In true PTA fashion, this film will need multiple viewing to really get into and explore all its meaning.
Unsurprisingly, Day-Lewis is fantastic. Every inch of his performance is perfectly managed, from his physical movement to his voice. If this truly is his last, it is a fine performance to bow out on. Both Leslie Manville and Vicky Krieps are also terrific and deserve recognition. The committed performances match the committed nature of the characters.
Much has been said about Jonny Greenwood’s score, and rightfully so. Its haunting nature reminds of the horror-inflicted score of There Will Be Blood while having its own unique mystery and beauty.
One element of the film that I feel hasn’t been appreciated enough is Paul Thomas Anderson’s own stunning cinematography. His debut as a director of photography has resulted in work that is up there with some of the very best cinematographers of last year. He effortlessly captures the beauty of the dresses, and the English scenery, while also managing to reveal more about his characters through the use of his camera.
Phantom Thread is simply spellbinding. It is also one of PTA’s more accessible films with an engaging romantic plot, and a runtime that is, compared to his other works, pretty reasonable. If you’re not a fan, now’s the time to start, he is perhaps the most exciting director working today, and his latest piece is something special.