Phantom Thread – Film Review by Frank L.
Written and Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Vicky Krieps, Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville
Set in London in the 1950s, Daniel Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a London couturier of exquisite taste, who is obsessive about his work. His work is his life. He is protected from any sort of distraction by his formidable sister Cyril (Lesley Manville). A distraction can, for instance, be the clunk created by a tea cup as it is placed on a saucer or the crunch sound when a bite is taken out of a piece of dry toast.
These sort of distractions enter his life as a result of his being enchanted by a young waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps) in a country tea shop. She comes to live in his haute couture home in an elegant London square which also houses his studio. In the house every day an army of highly skilled seamstresses cut and sew exquisite fabrics under the watchful eye of Cyril. Reynolds is only interested in perfection. Needless to say Alma has to submit to his obsessions but she has limits.
After the film had been shot Day-Lewis announced this would be his last film. His body of work is uniquely impressive. His approach to acting has been to metamorphose into the character which he is playing. He immerses himself in the character. He leaves no detail unconsidered. If this is indeed his last film it is appropriate that Reynolds Woodcock is his final cinematic creation because Woodcock has the same extraordinary ability to concentrate on a single objective and obliterate all distractions by the power of his concentration. This is the acting method that Day Lewis has brought to perfection.
This is Paul Thomas Anderson’s eight feature film and once again he works with Day-Lewis, having previously worked with him on ‘There will be Blood’. Johnny Greenwood is also involved once more, taking the soundtrack duties with many subtle piano tracks. Anderson is constantly evolving as a director and writer and seems intent on never repeating his work. That is possibly a failing of this piece, as the slow nature of the story does not set the pulse racing and could alienate his earlier fans.
The London depicted in the Phantom Thread is a far cry from the London of My Beautiful Launderette (1985) where Day-Lewis first came to the attention of cinema-goers. The discipline Day-Lewis shows in creating the character that is Reyolds Woodcock, in all his glory and futility, shows that in making this his last film he has chosen a character whose fanaticism is similar to his own. That similarity raises questions as to whether Day-Lewis’s own strict work and self-discipline has created the acting borders from which he now wishes to escape. As this is apparently Day Lewis’s last film, it is fascinating to observe him creating an obsessive personality who would appear to have some similarities to his own.