Thursday, 5 July 2018

Phantom Thread ★★★★★

‘Phantom Thread’ is the latest film to star Daniel Day Lewis, and it is also said to be his final film as he retires from acting at the age of 61. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (‘There Will Be Blood’, ‘Magnolia’), the film is a somewhat ghostly tale of Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day Lewis), a fastidious and insufferable man who is the owner of House of Woodcock and a master of dress creation. Never married, he lives with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), who keeps the house and business running while Reynolds focuses on his next big project.

A recurrent theme in the life of the Woodcock’s is the string of temporary muses that pass through the house – present only until they no longer bring inspiration to Reynolds’ life. Whilst out in the countryside he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), who joins the line of women taken in by the fashion designer. She’s different though – feisty, strong, and not afraid to talk back or put her voice across. Although it starts off like any other relationship of lovers, there could be something different in the air this time.

Whilst many aspects of the film could be considered spectacular, one thing that really stands out is the emotive power that it holds for the viewer. Watching it I felt a constant yo-yo of emotions, swinging wildly between loved up and passionate, and feelings of disappointment and hurt. I felt conflicted at points – desperately wanting the relationship between Reynolds and Alma to work, yet also wanting Alma to leave him behind as we learn more and more about his unique personality.

The way the characters are crafted is also done excellently, with each charactering bringing something interesting to the table. Reynolds and Cyril are particularly fascinating; Reynolds becomes more and more intolerable as time goes on, and Cyril represents a sturdy and controlled figure from the very beginning. Alma is also compelling – especially in the way her emotions present themselves. More about Cyril would have added to the film, but in general, the character development is meaningful at every point.

The film takes a dark turn around halfway through, and this is where things get really interesting. Whilst the first half is geared more towards the development of Reynolds’ and Alma’s relationship in an almost literary sense, the second half becomes much more story-orientated. Both halves are insightful, with a paranormal element in parts and a slightly weird side as we fall ever deeper into the infatuation between the two. You’ll initially be drawn in by the tantalising and drawn-out visuals (it’s quite something how much an image of two people maintaining eye contact can speak when done well), but the razor-sharp script will also have you hooked.

‘Phantom Thread’ is definitely one of those films that will appeal to people with certain interests – perhaps it’s the vintage British fashion you are into, or simply British modern history itself. It could be that you appreciate a film focused on the rises and falls of a relationship or just one that utilises a beautifully haunting classical score. Whilst the film may not be for everyone, it goes beyond what it could hope to achieve and is certainly a commendable last performance for Daniel Day Lewis if the rumours are true.

Hannah Read

Phantom Thread at CeX

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