(Featured image credit: nybooks.com)
In what is allegedly his final role, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Reynolds Woodcock – a world famous fashion designer – who falls in love with Alma, a young waitress who is played by Vicky Krieps. The trailer doesn’t reveal much about the story which is important as it allows the audience to go in without knowing what to expect.
Granted, the story of an older man falling in love with a younger woman has been done plenty of times before, but Phantom Thread manages to be unique for a number of different reasons. Initially, like all the women the bachelor Reynolds has had relations with, he uses Alma to model the beautiful dresses he creates. He intends only to have a short-term relationship with her but, this time, he falls genuinely in love with her and he starts to rely on her. Alma feels the same, realising that she wants him, too. Reynolds makes her feel better about all her flaws, designing dresses for that accentuate her physical beauty as she becomes his muse. The costumes in this film are absolutely stunning; it is no wonder after director Paul Thomas Anderson admitted to having tonnes of fashion magazines lying around his house during production. In fact, these designs won the film the 2018 Oscar for Best Costume Design.
Daniel Day-Lewis is certainly retiring on a high note as he gives an incredibly memorable performance as Reynolds, an interesting and complex character that no other actor could have portrayed to the quality that Day-Lewis does. He is unintentionally hilarious, as we see him become irritated by small things (such as Alma buttering her toast “too loudly” during breakfast whilst he is attempting to design a new dress), and we learn that this is a man who is completely enthralled in his work. Despite being unnecessarily rude to just about everyone he meets, deep down he is a harmless and gentle soul who is not as bold as he presents himself. He is a mysterious and an enigmatic character; for example, he tells Alma how since he was a boy, he used to hide things between the linings of the garments and that anything can be hidden on the inside of clothing such as little messages, secrets and coins. All of this provides Reynolds with a fascinating character arc, making this film essentially a character study of him.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Phantom Thread is its completely mesmerising musical score. From the outset, the audience is gifted with what feels to be a never-ending score that feels like a character in its own right, narrating the story through music. The music can somehow feel both soothing and frightening at the same time due to the way Jonny Greenwood (the composer, and also the guitarist from Radiohead), utilises the sound of the string instruments in his arrangements. I read that, for the 130 minutes that the film runs for, Greenwood’s original score plays for 90 minutes. Even if you do not intend on watching Phantom Thread, I would highly recommend listening to the original soundtrack because it really is a hypnotic experience.
Phantom Thread has an indescribable atmosphere, putting the audience constantly on-edge throughout. In one scene, at a party, the joyful background music plays at the same time as a slow, almost frightening, piece of music from the film’s score, causing the audience to feel uneasy. The film feels eerily like a ghost story because of the way Reynolds is influenced so much in his everyday life by his deceased mother, such as making dresses that reminds him of her, and keeping a sample of her hair in the lining of his suit so she will always be beside him in everything he does. Paul Thomas Anderson’s direction is a joy to watch, as always. The camera is constantly moving and at no point does the film slow down. Tension builds throughout and, like all of his films, it is very unpredictable; one thing that makes Paul Thomas Anderson’s films so fun to watch is not having any idea of where the film is going.
Phantom Thread is a spellbinding masterpiece on every level. Everything connects and flows so fluently. Even on my second viewing I was completely gripped, picking up on details I missed the first time. I thought the ending was perfect and gave me shivers. Phantom Thread might possibly be my favourite of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films to date and I cannot wait for his next work, meanwhile I must also admit that I will seriously miss Daniel Day-Lewis’ unbelievable acting performances such as this.