I always liked period-era movies. I always find myself being allured to these sort of movies, maybe because they bring out the past in a way that I never really knew or because the costume design is fascinating or because perhaps I’m an old soul that likes the past, I never really know but much like those movies, I was allured to Phantom Thread and I was pleasantly surprised.
There’s something quite charming, but also, very puzzling in Phantom Thread. Phantom Thread, much like Mother!, is a film about an artist. Daniel Day Lewis plays Reynolds Woodstock, a successful and heavily sought-out fashion designer in post-war London in the 1950s. Mr. Woodstock is demanding and frequently lost in his own head, wrapping himself like a blanket in his genius and expects others to be be there whenever he calls out but otherwise they often stay away. You can tell that he’s not the best person to be in a committed relationship with or a relationship at all; he’s often dismisses women left and right when they start to annoy him or when they get to close to see what’s behind the facade.
To me, this is a very familiar character but Paul Thomas Anderson does with this very familiar character is quite surprising. Anderson places two women at Daniel Day Lewis’ side, and from that is where the movie evolves from a quite chilling portrait of a man who happens to be self-centered to something more then just that, a mix of romance and drama. Lesley Manville plays Woodstock’s sister, who just happens to be as demanding as Woodstock is but far worse then him: She’s not only demanding but also cruel and commanding business partner but also a confidante to Woodstock. She does everything for him until one day, Woodstock brings a woman from the English countryside to his estate; installing her as his muse and perhaps one day, something more. You have a feeling that it won’t end all and that it will end badly but by the end, that doesn’t happen at all.
Phantom Thread is something else entirely, by the end your expections are thrown out the window. It becomes a cinema masterpiece, not iconic like Casablanca or There Will Be Blood but a masterpiece nonetheless. As Reynolds and Alma, who is the girl that Reynolds picked up at the breakfast diner circle each other, figuring out where does the boundaries lie and figure out if they’re somewhat compatible, you see the beginnings of a masterpiece slowly unravel layer by layer. It becomes clear that both found some need of each other and as a result, found some understanding between them and that lasts until the film’s dark and strange ending. It’s fiercely romantic, it’s not the lovely kind of romance you see in movies but the dark kind of romance that you kind of expect in the real world.
After seeing the film, I was quite puzzled by what Phantom Thread is; it was almost like a dark and heartfelt poem but also it was a dark poem about the nature of relationships. At the same time, however, I was fascinated and astounded by what I watched and couldn’t stop thinking about it. It pulled you in with it’s gorgeous visuals, cinematography, costume design, and much more. The visuals and cinematography is very lived in; grainy and old-fashioned but tailored to fit the movie.
As for the actors, they’re great. Daniel Day Lewis brings to life Mr. Woodstock in a way that nobody else really can, in his hands, Mr. Woodstock is a cold man but also a bully and mean, but then he brings out the decency and the charm out of Mr. Woodstock; he’s funny and charming but his general aurora is that of meanness and bullish. You can see the coldness and the meanness drip out of him, Mr. Woodstock is very self-centered and obnxious. There are moments of towering anger that really shows Daniel Day Lewis as the masterful actor of his craft and one of the reasons why he is one of my favorite actors but it’s Vicky Krieps who steals the show. Krieps has been given a role that if given in the wrong hands, it could very well be a disaster and I’m kind of glad that Mr. Paul Anderson didn’t choose any other actress to bring Alma to life, when I think of Alma, I think of Krieps. Krieps finds the right balance to stand next to Daniel Day Lewis, it’s terrific acting and a fantastic breakout role. Alma could only be brought to life with Vicky Krieps, she’s honestly outstanding.
Phantom Thread is one of 2017’s best films and one that I will remember quite fondly of, it’s a film that ultimately comes only once under a blue moon. It was a surprising love story that didn’t fall to cliches or cringey moments like other romantic movies, it’s a movie that isn’t like any other. You deserve to watch this.