Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has made a career by consistently providing beautifully crafted stories about broken characters. From his first feature Hard Eight to the poignant masterpiece (and my personal favorite) The Master, Anderson has gradually made a transition in his style and storytelling techniques, while also never losing sight of the story he wants to tell. In his eighth feature film and second collaboration with the chameleon method actor Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread is yet another film that requires undivided attention but will reward your patience with a story that will beg audiences to come back for repeat viewings
Daniel Day-Lewis in his supposed final performance plays renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock, (yes, that’s his real name) a workaholic who, with his sister Cyril (Leslie Manville) makes prestigious dresses for high profile figures in 1950s London. When Reynolds encounters timid waitress, Alma (Vicky Krieps), the attraction between one another is instantaneous. Though we soon find out that there is more to these individuals than meets the eye, which I will avoid diving into because Phantom Thread is best seen with naked eyes.
There are some things in this world that are simply objective. The grass is green, the sky is blue, and Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the best actors of all time. To say he’s great in a film is a cliche in itself, but we haven’t seen Day-Lewis be this restrained in quite sometime. Reynolds is a complex character, to say the least. As the headline states, this man judges the rest of his day on how well his breakfast experience is. If someone is chewing too loud or scraping their fork on a plate, his day is ruined in his eyes. When Reynolds is continuously challenged in this, or any mater really, his sister usually does the dirty work for him, breaking up with his numerous number of muses and lovers.
Actress Vicky Krieps, who is a relatively unknown, holds her own and then some acting alongside one of the best actors to ever grace the silver screen. Her characters motivations are slowly unraveled through the narrative, showing only slight facial cues the majority of the time to showcase how she’s feeling.
Anderson, who also served as the cinematographer on this project, shot it in gorgeous 70mm film. The 1950s scenery looks authentic and lived in, with some of the best looking skin tons and black levels I’ve seen in sometime.
Towards the final act of Phantom Thread, a character makes a choice to accept something, and that thing will work for some audiences, and baffle others. Upon further reflection, I found this decision to be remarkably placed and believable, given the subtitle hints that are planted throughout the screenplay. A great director is one who takes risks, and Anderson does this without ever showboating, causing for a genuine experience.
Some may consider Phantom Thread to be dull or boring, but for those in search of a film that begs to be examined and re watched, or more obviously, fans of Paul Thomas Anderson’s work, will be blown away by his latest feature. One can only hope that after a five-year sabbatical, Daniel Day-Lewis will return to the big screen. If he doesn’t, what a hell of a character to go out on.