Movie Review: Phantom Thread

[Phantom Thread has been nominated in 6 categories at the Academy Awards 2018: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Score, and Best Costume Design.]

Believe it or not, Phantom Thread is the first time I’ve seen Daniel Day-Lewis in action. His reputation precedes him, what with three Academy Awards under his belt. Thanks to this, I thought that maybe he was overrated. But no. Phantom Thread showed me my place and taught me not to question this man. Ever.

Phantom Thread is about Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), a designer in the late 1950s who dabbled in designing dresses for high society women. His is helped by his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), and has a House of his own, a pretty reputed one at that. When Reynolds goes to the country to clear his head, on Cyril’s suggestion, he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps) at a restaurant there. She is the waitress who serves him. He asks her out on a date and quickly, she becomes his muse, apart from being his lover.

Alma soon realizes Reynolds’s temperamental nature. She wants to do something for him, only to be told that he doesn’t like what she has done. Any diversion from routine sets him off. And Alma isn’t one to take things lying down. What follows is a dark journey of love and wanting to get out, yet staying where each actually is.

What a film Phantom Thread is! It is slow-paced, yes. But every actor in it does a fantastic job. Nowhere in the film does anything look out of pace. Instead, you think, “Does this really happen in real life?” or “Were there people like this back then?” Though it isn’t chilling by a large margin, I feel chagrined at how it all turned out in the end. Not that I would change it. Maybe it’s all in how much you allow yourself to accept from the world. If you think nothing is impossible, then that’s what it is. If you think that this isn’t possible, then that’s what it is, too. Phantom Thread is one of those movies.

Vicky Krieps as Alma Elson is sweet. You sympathize with her to a point where you really don’t like Reynolds anymore. She maintains this countenance throughout the film and it is an ode to the Luxembourgian actress’s acting chops that you are taken in with her sweetness and keep it that way, come what may.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s direction is beautifully exempt from the exaggeration that many directors tend to take on with such a story. He has all the threads (no pun intended) together until the end, which in itself is an awe-inducing one. I didn’t see it coming and it punched the hell out of my head. But then again, what else can one do but merely shrug and get on with life? After all, don’t they say, to each, his own? That’s exactly what Anderson tried to do in Phantom Thread and spectacularly got away with it, too.

The costume design was keeping in mind the era in which the movie is set in. The costumes were low-key and not too extravagant without being dowdy. The background score is lilting and haunting at the same time, perfectly in sync with the emotions on screen. And there are a lot of them to take in, given the man called Daniel Day-Lewis.

Once I’m done with all the Oscar Mania, I’m going to go and watch all Daniel Day-Lewis films. It’s a shame I only started with his last movie before retirement. He vacillates between being the temperamental Mr. Woodcock and Alma’s tender lover, Reynolds with a perfection that would hardly be possible if it were played by anyone else. He is deserving of his sixth Oscar nod, three of which (to date) he has won.

Reynolds’s sister, Cyril, is strict and stern but can also be soft when the situation demands it. And she is the about the only one who can stand up to Reynolds. Lesley Manville takes up this role with considerable ease, and though I can agree she has done a commendable job, I didn’t see it as one to go gaga about.

With all this elements coming together, Phantom Thread makes for a convincing Best Picture candidate, though with other heavyweights in the fray, I’m not so sure this will win. But it’s always a surprise, going into the Oscars. So let’s wait and watch if Phantom Thread manages to sweep whatever it has got on its platter into its bag.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: The Film Stage.

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