Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, the film Phantom Thread stars three-time Academy Award winner for Best Actor Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, a world-renowned dress maker. Set in London during the 1950s, Reynolds’ meticulous attention to detail makes him the best of the best, but when it comes to his personal life, he is brooding and highly persnickety.
His difficult combination of personality traits makes it challenging for Reynolds to maintain any romantic relationships, but he seems fine with that because it is his sister Cyril, portrayed by Lesley Manville, who truly seems to be his soulmate. The brother-sister relationship isn’t incestuous, but it definitely flirts with an uncomfortable level of closeness, making me raise my eyebrows on more than one occasion. At one point, my friend whispered, “What the hell?” I nodded in agreement.
It is a chance encounter with a younger woman named Alma, played by Vicky Krieps, on which the majority of Phantom Thread’s story is spun. There’s something about Alma that sparks a fire in Reynolds, inspiring him to design some of his most eminent material masterpieces. If Alma only elicited greatness from Reynolds, the story wouldn’t be very interesting though, would it? As the designer and his muse’s story unfolds, it’s plain to see that their relationship is not the ideal pairing . . . or wait, is it?
As I watched the highs and lows of Reynolds and Alma’s unorthodox partnership, I kept thinking to myself that the way they loved each other wasn’t the same. Reynolds loved Alma for who she was the moment he first met her, the soft-spoken woman whose clumsy side was overshadowed by her warm smile. Upon meeting Reynolds, Alma felt smitten because he saw something in her that no one else had ever seen, and she adored how she suddenly felt important as she became his source of inspiration.
While those initial feelings of budding love are always tucked away as a treasured memory, are they enough to successfully sustain a relationship over the course of time? As I watched, I kept thinking that Reynolds loved the idea of her rather than the real woman Alma, who annoyed his every fiber at the breakfast table each morning, and that Alma fell in love with who she hoped Reynolds would be rather than who he actually was. Relationships take work, and it’s not enough to love someone as you wish to love them; true love exists when you’re able to love someone as he or she needs to be loved.
The three friends I attended Phantom Thread with gave it mixed reviews. (As always, no spoilers.) The first shared, “This was probably the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It was horrible in every way, and it was long and boring. I would never recommend it.”
The second friend shared, “At the end, I turned to my husband, and said, ‘That was #$&*ed up!’ I had no clue that it would be such a crazy story! Other than that, the acting was superb, and I loved all the nuances as everyone looked at one another with the staring and subtleties that come with quality acting. I loved the time period. The love-and-devotion-and-need storyline was just kind of crazy. It was good, and I would recommend it for sure, but it was #$&*ed up!”
My third friend, husband of the second, shared, “I wouldn’t have chosen this movie to come see if you weren’t doing the review of it because the storyline didn’t seem that interesting to me, but I found it to be very suspenseful, and I enjoyed that. Daniel Day-Lewis is a classic actor, and to see him in character is great. I loved his character’s acerbic personality. The ending was a surprise. I would definitely recommend it, especially for men, because I think you can learn something about male personalities and co-dependency. It was different than what I expected. I’m smiling after seeing it, but I can’t figure out why.”
As for me, I agree that the acting was superb, and can see why Phantom Thread has been nominated for six Academy Awards. Daniel Day-Lewis portrayed Reynolds flawlessly, and Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville gave equally impressive performances. The cinematography and costumes were stunning. While I’m still on the fence about being able to say whether I actually liked it, I know it’s one of those films I’ll be thinking about for quite a while, trying to digest the surprises. (I’m just hoping I can digest them better than Reynolds can.)
Movie times: click here
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Actors: Vicky Krieps, Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville
Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Rating: Rated R for language