Easily writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s most serene feature, Phantom Thread is an unusual romantic fable that can’t help but bewitch its audience with its lush unpredictability.
Serene through it may be, Anderson’s feature still evokes a degree of tension. The central character strives for perfection in every aspect of his life. This is Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), a successful though eerily demanding dressmaker in 1950s London, whose garments are sought out by socialites, celebrities, even royalty.
Meticulous in his daily routine – right down to the actions of his lovers – Reynolds can’t bear the thought of an intrusion, so his encounter with demure waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps) is one that certainly takes him by surprise.
He’s immediately taken with her, and she him, but a separation seems inevitable as his strict lifestyle remains. Alma can’t help but feel a burden.
As she knows her love for Reynolds is true, and that he loves her in return, she deems it necessary to keep her presence known within the walls of his diligent household. It’s in this development of their relationship that Phantom Thread truly surprises.
Though not necessarily heavy on plot twists, Phantom Thread presents Reynolds’ and Alma’s push-pull relationship with wicked glee. They slowly take each other to the edge of breaking point before reuniting passionately, both clearly revelling in the psychological mastery they torture each other with.
Much has been said about Phantom Thread as Day-Lewis’s final film. If he is in fact retiring, he’s exiting on a stellar note.
From his beginnings in My Beautiful Laundrette as a gay cockney punk in love with a Pakistani youth, to his Oscar-winning turns in My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood, and Lincoln, roles he has wholly immersed himself in, he could easily be dubbed one of the greatest actors of not just his generation, but ever.
Wonderful as Day-Lewis is, he fully matched by Krieps – no easy feat. An actress of Luxembourg heritage, her quiet intensity is riveting, and her staring matches with Day-Lewis are moments of sheer brilliance.
Also holding her own is the marvellous Lesley Manville as Woodcock’s fastidious sister. Delivering put-downs with biting subtlety, Manville is a force to be reckoned with, and even if you find yourself tested with the film’s deliberate pace, the power of the acting can’t be denied.
Phantom Thread is in cinemas this Thursday, February 1. Watch the trailer below: