Anyone remotely familiar with Paul Thomas Anderson’s impressive body of work will know that the director has never shied away from taking on usual and challenging projects. With the release of his latest feature film Phantom
Staring Daniel Day Lewis in what is believed to be his last ever role, having recently announced his retirement from acting, Phantom Thread is set in mid-century London and follows the mundane life of Reynolds Woodcock, a well to do taciturn dressmaker for the rich and famous, whose carefully planned quotidian rituals are turned upside by a chance meeting with the intriguing Alma (Vicky Krieps).
As one of the world most renown dress designers, Reynolds has seen women come in and out of his life for years without ever feeling the need to get too attached to any of them. Cajoled by royalty and adored by billionaire heiresses, Reynolds has very little time in his life for the superfluous. His taste in food and lifestyle are simple to the point of pathology. Encouraged by his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) to get rid for his latest conquest as “she’s getting fat and waiting for him to fall in love with her again”, the dressmaker decides to take a few days out of his busy schedule and spend some time at his country home.
Enter Alma (Krieps), a bashful young waitress whom Reynolds takes a shine to one morning whilst she is serving him breakfast at a nearby seaside hotel, a breakfast he delights on ordering as though he was in the midst of conducting an important surgical operation. The rest of the story centres around the volatile relationship between a man way into his middle age and a young shy girl who is to become his muse. However, this being a Paul Thomas Anderson film, nothing is quite what it seems, and what we first thought was a simple study in love and deceit, soon turns into something much more nuanced.
Day Lewis is enchanting in the role of a man whose life has until now been planned like clockworks. He delivers every single line as if his life depended on it, and with a slowness which can at times be testing. Vicky Kreips is a revelation as Alma, her delivery oozes confidence and playfulness, while Lesley Manville puts in a career defining turn as the quietly resilient Cyril, a woman whom nobody seems to be able to say no to.
Anderson does an incredible job in delivering a story which transports its audience back to a time which seems so foreign to the way things are now. Every single shot is measured and framed to perfection and meticulous attention to detail as though is was a painting. With a dialogue that will have you howling with laughter one minute and can render you speechless the next, Anderson has managed to create a world you will find yourself strangely attached to and unwilling to let go of long after the film has finished. A genuinely thrilling piece of filmmaking, which while not being one of his most accessible works to date, is certainly one of Anderson’s most memorable one. Simply stunning.
Phantom Thread is on general release Friday 2nd of February