Phantom Thread is a portrait of the dissatisfied artist whose work can never be done; an exploration of desire and a boy’s enduring love for his mother (but not a boy’s desire for his mother); and an exhibition of a lot of beautiful dresses.
The film is situated in 1950s high-society London, concerning the life of Reynolds Woodcock, head of the esteemed dress-makers ‘The House of Woodcock’. Reynolds’ daily quest for perfectionism in his craft is interrupted upon his falling in love with the enigmatic Alma, who becomes at once his muse and lover.
This film is a further offering from Paul Thomas Anderson with the accompaniment of Daniel Day-Lewis and Jonny Greenwood, an almost holy-trinity one could argue with films like There Will Be Blood being one shadow-casting predecessor. As viewers we can gorge on the imagery as the cinematography is reserved and patient; shots are held long enough for us to see every morsel of cloth and skin on offer. The three central performances too – Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds, Vicky Krieps as the beguiling Alma, and Lesley Manville as Cyril, Reynolds’ domineering sister and business partner – are very measured yet ooze an intensity and portray an emotional depth which needs little assistance from expository dialogue. The film examines Reynolds’ struggle to synthesise his love for Alma and his need to create, whilst endlessly being haunted by thoughts of his deceased mother, and Alma’s place within the ‘House of Woodcock’ and her attempts to win his affection over his work.
Jonny Greenwood’s score is as vital to the film as the actors in its ability to construct tension and instil emotion; the beautiful yet brittle piano keys and delicate strings which permeate the film help simultaneously to entrance viewer and convey the winding, contradictory emotions of the characters.
Phantom Thread is a very fine piece of work from a director who cannot seem to falter – do see it.
By Harry Dixon