The Paul Thomas Anderson / Daniel Day-Lewis collaboration has yielded arguably the greatest American film in the 21st century, 2007‘s ‘There Will Be Blood’, for which Day-Lewis won his second Best Actor Oscar, but an aspect of Anderson’s filmmaking that often goes unheralded are his unconventional love stories. 2002‘s ‘Punch Drunk Love’ utilized Adam Sandler’s idiosyncrasies in an effectively strange romantic story. A relationship is again front and center for his latest, the meticulous and engrossing ‘Phantom Thread’. While it may be less complex thematically than some of his previous films, ‘Thread’ is anchored by a specifically crafted, measured performance by Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, a highly regarded genius fashion designer fitting the upper crust and global royalty in 1950’s England, a role purported to be created by both the writer/director and his star.
The plot follows the methodic lifestyle curated by Woodcock and his sister/assistant/constant presence Cyril (Lesley Manville in a sly, Oscar nominated performance), and the way it is upended by the introduction of the only real romantic partner he has ever had, the young and challenging Alma (a subtly beguiling Vicky Krieps). The movie picks up at the tail end of a project fulfillment and a terse breakfast ritual with Reynolds, his sister, and a current paramour, who is unceremoniously dismissed by Cyril off-screen, a seemingly repeated event in this genius artist’s life. As is his custom, Reynolds retreats to the country (featuring a wacky prop-cam view of him driving his sports car with no abandon) where he meets Alma, who serves him a hearty breakfast. What follows is one of many protracted push-pull scenes of courtship and tension, a foreshadowing of these two seemingly disparate individuals’ symbiotic relationship.
Woodcock brings Alma, as his muse, back with him to his London home/office/dressmaking shop, complete with a staff of talented seamstresses who understand their boss and the peculiarities that both isolate him and define his unparalleled talent. Day-Lewis, as always, is a marvel in his portrayal, and Anderson knows exactly where to place and linger his camera to coax audience rapture even in the most mundane of situations. These three actors and their director are able to convey everything necessary about these characters along with a screenplay that understands when to be quiet and when to be verbose. The film perfectly captures the little annoyances and the grand battles that all couples have in a convincing manner, only here they are set amongst exquisite fabrics, high society, and little deaths . . .
Written & Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson
Running Time: 130 min.
* * * 1/2 (out of four stars) -OR- A-