In 2007 I saw a film that completely floored me. It was about a self-centered prospector in the early 1900’s who was obsessed with drilling for oil and would stop at nothing to stomp all over anyone who opposed him. The film was called There Will Be Blood and it made me begin to appreciate the works of director Paul Thomas Anderson. From then on I sought out all of his previous films: Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and the 2002 Adam Sandler dark comedy Punch-Drunk Love. His stylish mix of somewhat sinister subject matter infused with bold yet subtle drama and light hints of comedy completely speaks to my interests. So when his latest film entitled Phantom Thread was announced, I was excited but also cautiously optimistic at the same time.
Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Reynolds Woodcock, a highly praised and respected, narcissistic dressmaker living in 1950’s London. When his current female partner isn’t tickling his fancy, his work associate Cyril (Lesley Manville) suggests taking some time off in the country. While dining at a local café, a waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps) strikes an arresting impression on him and the two end up going out to dinner later that night. After a somewhat awkward first date, a relationship begins to flourish between Reynolds and Alma and she ends up working for his dress company. From then on, a story involving love, deceit, and the dissemination of desires plays out in a peculiar yet enticing series of events.
After originally finding out the premise for the film, my enthusiasm began to wane. However, after seeing the final product, I now understand that my initial reaction was completely unjustified. Phantom Thread may be a slower paced film but every word, every glance, every moment is filled to the brim with subtle yet significant emotion and nuance. From lingering on particular shots for egregiously prolonged amounts of time to conversations that build and build to the point of pure powerful and zealous reactions; it’s hard not to be entirely engrossed by every single moment contained within the film.
Even though everything is centered around Daniel Day-Lewis’ character, both Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps’ performances are above reproach. Lesley’s audacious and severe demeanor is insanely striking which allowed her to completely command my attention whenever she appeared. Vicky, on the other hand, played her character as a much more reserved and demure woman who was able to completely surprise me with each and every choice that she made. The power dynamic that these women create in opposition to Daniel Day-Lewis’ stern and egotistical man-child made every interaction between the characters an edge-of-your-seat event. In addition, it created circumstances where scenes never foreshadowed where they were heading towards. That specific element helped to raise my enjoyment level to a much higher degree.
Aside from all the praise, the film did have one minor issue that somewhat annoyed me. Even though it was shot on film, it has a very soft, digital look where detail was severely lacking. It’s definitely a minor gripe because the cinematography primarily overshadows that aspect. However, it was a facet that was unfortunately noticeable. Nevertheless, Phantom Thread is a tremendous achievement in both storytelling and acting and it’s a film that should definitely not be overlooked.
About Phantom Thread
Synopsis: A famous, self-centered dressmaker encounters his ultimate muse in 1950’s London.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville, Brian Gleeson
Runtime: 2 Hours, 10 Minutes