Paul Thomas Anderson has directed some of my favourite films ever in There Will Be Blood (2007) and Punch Drunk Love (2002). His films have the common thread of mesmerising, shocking and frustrating the audience with slow-paced dramas filled with heart and passion. On his eighth feature film Phantom Thread (2017), Paul Thomas Anderson studies the complicated relationship between renowned fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis in his supposed final acting performance) and a waitress he became interested when in the countryside named Alma (portrayed by Vicky Krieps). Set in 1950s London, this film is aesthetically rich and stunningly shot. Everything from the costume design to the absolutely flawless and heart-piercing soundtrack from the masterful Jonny Greenwood, is executed to perfection in a frustrating yet captivating drama about loss, relationships, manipulation and love.
The performances in this film are just incredible. Daniel Day-Lewis completely loses himself in the depth, sophistication and stringent nature of his character. Lesley Manville, who played Reynolds Woodcock’s sister Cyril, gives an Oscar deserving performance, showing the power, influence and strength in a leading female character. Vicky Krieps’ portrayal of Alma is nuanced, as her character finds ways to cope with Reynolds’ idiosyncrasies and finds difficulties of finding her own purpose in the life Reynolds has built for her and himself. The relationship between the two is sometimes difficult to watch, as you can sense rigidness and lack of chemistry between the two. The darker undertone of this film takes a turn near the end, where it is shown how the power of love, as manipulative and complicated as it may be, can never be taken away from them, as messed up as it may be. Many people call this a feminist film studying the darker sides to masculinity and the ways in which femininity can help either control or cure that darkness.
It is a stunning film, though at times it did test my patience with the slow pacing and lack of a storyline, which made the ending especially awkward for me as I was expecting a more decisive conclusion. While I know this was entirely Paul Thomas Anderson’s intention, it left me feeling uncomfortable in the same way that his film The Master (2012) made me feel – infuriated at the indecisive ending. This makes Phantom Thread an enigma, but a film I would need to watch again and again to fully appreciate.
Watch the trailer for Phantom Thread below. It is now open in cinemas in the UK and the US.