If you’re looking for a beautiful story about a tired dressmaker who has lost their spark and becomes enchanted by a pretty girl who turns their life upside down, then Phantom Thread is not the movie for you.
As the film begins we are introduced to one Reynolds Jeremiah Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) as he performs his rigorous morning routine, complete with knee-high red socks and a hair-brushing technique that requires two brushes in two hands moving simultaneously from temple to nape. And it is this procedure, followed quickly by an awkward and somewhat unsettling approach to breakfast that tells us everything we need to know about the House of Woodcock.
Set in 1950s London in the high-society of fabulous parties, fashion and style is key to anyone who is anyone’s social calendar. As one patron says, after trying on a luxuriously decadent gown, “I think it will give me courage,” it is clear that the clothes, and the magic of creation are just as important to the film and the main protagonist as the other characters.
Reynolds Woodcock demonstrates slightly immature idiosyncratic behaviour that, while charming at times, is closely monitored by an all-seeing, all-knowing Cyril (Lesley Manville), Reynolds sister and business partner. And while she appears at first to be a rude and arrogant woman, one learns that it is all she can do to save herself, and more often than not, Reynolds, from himself.
Cyril is the only constant in Reynolds’ life, but that doesn’t stop him from parading an array of muses disguised as girlfriends through the House of Woodcock. However, this all changes when his magnetising charisma disarms the utterly beguiling Alma (Vicky Krieps) over a breakfast order in the English countryside. The intimacy that flourishes between them is based less on their relationship with each other and more upon their shared pleasure of beautiful fabrics. Eventually, like all the others, Reynolds tires of his muse, but Alma is not to be underestimated. And once she learns how Reynolds plays his game she takes matters into her own hands.
It is indeed safe to say that we are being treated to another of Paul Thomas Anderson’s richly unusual characters, and Daniel Day-Lewis is resoundingly superb in what is sure to be another Oscar-worthy performance (hopefully not his last).
The essence of this film is beautifully captured in the rose tint of the cinematography and Johnny Greenwoods perfectly matched score. But what this film manages to do incredibly well is highlight the sometimes unorthodox measures we are all capable of to protect ourselves from what we are afraid to want, and fight for what we do.
Review by Isabelle Aswad