Phantom Thread (2018)


Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Country: USA

Revered writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson re-teams up with the resourceful actor Daniel Day-Lewis in "Phantom Thread", a perversely romantic, adult drama film set in 1950s London.

Day-Lewis is Reynolds Woodcock, a first-rate fashion designer whose peculiar personality, allied with an elegant yet somewhat vampiric look, makes him a wonderful character. He lives permanently obsessed with work, controlling everything and everyone, except when he gets sick, often haunted by the death of his mother. He shares this abnormal dependency with Alma (Vicky Krieps), a former waitress turned into his new inspirational muse, in a glorious scene wrapped in flirtation and nostalgia.

If Reynolds is completely taken up by work, Alma becomes an obsessively devotional person whose purpose in life is to please a perpetually unsatisfied man. When she first moved in with Reynolds, she was seen as unreliable by his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), the one who helped him build his fashion emporium. Despite initially opaque and a source of enigmatic tension, she becomes more open as her trust in Alma grows sturdier.

That special sparkle that enveloped the couple right after they met, gradually vanishes due to Reynolds’ fussiness. He disapproves too much noise and movement at breakfast, flips out when his work is interrupted, and shows occasional contempt for her in public. Curiously, he is perfectly aware of what he is, calling himself an incurable person who detests surprises or the word chic.


Their relationship reaches the peak of acidity when a Belgian princess arrives in the city to order the most beautiful wedding dress. Jealous, Alma will have the nerve to play with his life, taming him, taking care of him, and having him to herself. After all, perceiving he’s not so strong as he puts on display, she takes advantage of that camouflaged fragility. It’s insane to see her treating him like a spoiled little baby, fulfilling his deep emotional gap by acting like a caring mother. Because of that desired impression, marriage is mentioned as the next step in their intriguing bond. Where do these obsessives intend to go with their mutual madness? 

Just like it happened in “The Master”, I bow to Paul Thomas Anderson, who managed to engage me in the personalities and moves of every single character, even the supporting ones. Of course, this could only be possible due to the classy acting scenes, which are among the year’s best. Besides this, I found a phenomenal sense of space and extreme attention to light and color balance in every frame. As a curiosity, the success of the cinematography is directly related to the director himself, albeit uncredited. 

Unfolding with splotches of gothic glamour, “Phantom Thread” unearths an intoxicating tale with several dichotomies between authority and submission, power and fragility, passion and contempt, as well as gravitas and dark humor. Imperfect characters actually build a nearly perfect chamber film, equal parts poetic and obscure. Being a difficult one to digest, this is not what you would normally expect from a love story.