In June of 2017, Daniel Day-Lewis officially announced that he would be retiring from acting with the completion of Phantom Thread. The sixty-year-old actor is the only person ever to win three Academy Awards for Best Actor. Although it is unfortunate that such a talent will not be on-screen again, Day-Lewis delivers a remarkable performance to end his career.
Phantom Thread made its limited debut on Christmas, and it was released nationwide on January 19th. Directed and written by Paul Thomas Anderson, the film is set in 1950s London at Reynolds Woodcock’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) famed dressmaking house. He is an obsessive craftsman whose perfectionist lifestyle is interrupted by the presence of Alma (Vicky Krieps), who becomes Reynolds’ muse and lover. Anderson credits the inspiration for the story to watching hours of Turner Classic Movies while being extremely sick for three days. I was pleasantly surprised by the film, as I was mesmerized by the incredible acting, script, cinematography, and score. However, it took me several hours after viewing to digest and comprehend the meaning of the story. I felt that I had just read a 20th century romance novel that required reflection into the themes and characters. I am curious to see if other people are reacting the same way.
Krieps’ character Alma greatly contrasts from Day-Lewis’ Reynolds. The latter is much older and does not have the carefree spontaneity that Alma possesses. That is why their relationship is odd and the audience is left uncertain on how it will end. At first, Alma reminded me of Mrs. de Winter from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Anderson actually said that Alfred Hitchcock’s film version of Rebecca influenced his story. As the plot progresses, Alma proves she is strong-willed and capable of matching Reynolds’ stubborn attitude. This is where Krieps’ performance shines. Day-Lewis is equally as good and his rare talent is displayed in his dedication to the performance. He apprenticed in the costume department at the New York City Ballet and even sewed a Balenciaga dress. The script is filled with witty but caustic remarks that Day-Lewis delivers without a pause. The outstanding acting does the well-written script justice.
The reason I compared watching Phantom Thread to reading a classic romance novel is because the visuals are extremely similar. My imagination when reading one of those novels is comparable to how Phantom Thread looks. It is tremendously aesthetically pleasing. The detail put into the cinematography is so precise; it is like an actual painting. Rumor has it that Anderson did his own camerawork because no official director of photography was hired. But Anderson claims it was more of a collaboration between the gaffers, the camera operators, and himself.
Even if the story is tedious at particular points, the visuals are compelling enough to keep the audience engaged. There is always something to focus on, so it is difficult to be distracted by boredom. I noticed moments when the story does crawl, but I was never truly uninterested. Plus, the nature of the relationship between Reynolds and Alma creates suspense and anticipation.
Phantom Thread is one of the highest rated films going into the 2018 awards season. I can see why it is getting such positive marks from critics and viewers. I can also understand the critiques that have surfaced. The story can be described as eccentric, but it fits the unusual personality and lifestyle of Reynolds Woodcock. I recommend it, especially to those who are fans of Daniel Day-Lewis. Please comment below any opinions or questions!
Rated R for language.
Image Credit(s): Variety and IndieWire.