Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a highly regarded women’s dressmaker in 1950’s London. Aristocrats and socialites breeze through his bachelor life – always as clients but never anything more than that. Seemingly sealed-off inside his work, a young waitress called Alma (Vicky Krieps) catches his eye. She will be his muse and him, her master. However in this carefully stitched life of an obsessive dressmaker, the phantom thread of love will weave a ragged path for all concerned.
In his latest film, director Paul Thomas Anderson returns to the screen with Daniel-Day Lewis, again as his leading man. Previously cast in ‘Let There Be Blood’ as a the ruddy cheeked Daniel Plainview, the ultra-refined Reynolds Woodcock is another shift in tone for Day-Lewis’s acting abilities. Seemingly not as complete a ‘disappearance’ for this rigorous method actor, this is nonetheless another beautifully measured performance. Reportedly to be his last, this however feels a slightly low-key exit for an actor for whose dedication has won so many Oscars.
…as deep as anything Paul Thomas Anderson has attempted before.
Cast opposite him, Vicky Krieps plays Alma and it is her who brings out the best in the story. Starting as an ingenue and then becoming something all the more complex, the character arcs here are as deep as anything Paul Thomas Anderson has attempted before. With a button-down, almost choked style of cinematography and a chiming piano score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, ‘The Phantom Thread’ has a sparsity and pallor to match the voids of its characters.
A slow corkscrew of a tale, ‘The Phantom Thread’ unravels into being something all there more absorbing as it nears its conclusion. Nearly as long as “There Will Be Blood’, it actually feels like a swifter two hours in comparison. Neither leadened by a slow second act or any superfluous characters, this is a movie that is as crisp and exact as one Reynolds’s dresses with some suitably creased twists to keep you guessing.
Deliberately eschewing the speed and cut of modern-day story-telling, ‘The Phantom Thread’ has a languor about it that requires your attention throughout. With its crisp dialogue and curt dramatics, it is an absorbing study into dependency that will reward you, the more attention you give it.