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Review: "Phantom Thread" (2017)


Title: Phantom Thread

Genre: Historical Drama

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Stars: Daniel-Day Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps, Richard Graham, Camilla Rutherford, Harriet Sansom Harris

Bias: Reports state that this is Daniel Day Lewis’s last performance before retirement. I am someone who considers him to be an amazing actor with a lot to offer, so coming into this film screening my expectations were very high.

Grade: B+

In a Nutshell: Set in the glamour of 1950’s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutantes and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by love.

The Critique: The film’s entire runtime (approx. 130 mins) focuses on the love story between Reynolds & Alma, who face the difficulties of compromise, communication, and conflict that brings together a cinematic analysis of an abusive relationship. One thing I really enjoyed about the film was its message that love is expressed in many different ways. It also shows that depending on the person, there’s many ways that love is given and received. Reynolds' love is shown through his work as a dress maker, something that he meticulously spends most of his time on. It’s something that keeps him occupied for years, leaving him to wander in the bachelor lifestyle, unabashed by commitment. The only solid relationship he holds is with his sister, Cyril who enables his lifestyle, but very much so acts as a motherly figure to him. Alma, on the other hand, dedicates her time trying to get Reynolds to open up to her, and show that he needs someone to take care of him, without having to set boundaries of what she’s allowed to do. This strong dynamic between the duo consists of passive aggressive battles, which leads to the intense argument over dinner, when Alma cooks for Reynolds and sends all his assistants home, including his own sister, so that they could have some time together. He does not like being taken away from his daily routine and this turns toxic for them. Most of the film is dedicated to showing how two individuals emotionally manipulate each other with the same intention: they want to be given the love they feel is right, but set limitations that are not okay for the other person.

The rest of the following review will *CONTAIN SPOILERS* so please read at your own discretion. Reynolds lives a life mostly comparable to the game of chess. Every pawn or move is a member of his life such as his sister, his assistants, or even the women in his life on a romantic level. He has control and knows the use of every single person in his life set by the limitations that he deems are comfortable for him, regardless of their say say in it. In comes Alma, a woman who defies those limitations and brings this discomfort to Reynolds life, asking more from him as her significant other. I mean, she goes as far as to poison Reynolds with wild mushroom shavings, only to have him weak and vulnerable so that he realizes the value and care she shows him during his recovery. However, after Reynolds recovers from the poisoning, their relationship catapults back into the same negative dynamic as before.

Shout-Out: *SPOILER AHEAD* Paul Thomas Anderson not only killed the game in terms of directing Daniel once again (last time being There Will Be Blood), but he also helmed the role of the film’s cinematography as well. I found every visual to be well thought out, especially the scene towards the end of the movie where Alma cooks dinner for Reynolds. There’s not much dialogue between the two, but the audience can see how Alma creates a beautiful dish with a deadly ingredient to teach Reynolds a lesson on how much he actually needs her, and “truly” loves her.

To Go, Rent, or to Netflix: Phantom Thread is still in select theaters, and may be available at your local theater. This is a movie that has garnered 6 Oscar Nominations, including Best Actor, Best Picture, and Best Supporting Actress. This is a film that’s a must watch, so if you do choose to check it out, indulge yourself and watch it in a theater to truly enjoy it.

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