‘Phantom Thread’ tells one of the most striking and disturbing love stories of the year


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Brendan Sawyer

Phantom Thread is one of those movies that will ruin your entire day — in the best way. After leaving this movie, I couldn’t think about anything but its story, its significance and its universal relevance. It is a perfect contribution to 2017’s catalogue of brilliant off-kilter romances, along with The Shape of Water and Call Me By Your Name, while also being one of the best movies of the entire year.

Phantom Thread is Paul Thomas Anderson’s seventh feature film starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps. The film follows Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned fashion designer in London who falls in love with a countryside waitress named Alma. We see the ups and downs of their relationship as well as Reynolds’ codependent relationship with his sister, Cyril. While at a glance this film may seem like a cliché wealthy guy, poor girl love story, Phantom Thread has one of the most unique, uncomfortable relationships on film without sacrificing its beauty. The level of dependence, jealousy and passion that Reynolds and Alma have for each other is unwaveringly engaging.

Day-Lewis, Manville and Krieps all give incredible performances as three fundamentally broken people. While this may not be his best, Day-Lewis brought spot-on mannerisms and subtleties to Reynolds that make performance worthy of his Oscar nod. There is a reserved anger and passion behind all of his careful and calculated movements. It’s as if Day-Lewis took the film’s entire theme of darkness hidden in beauty and embedded it into his performance.

While Day-Lewis is phenomenal, Krieps absolutely steals this film. Her presence grips the audience in every scene, without ever resorting to overacting. The pain and desire in her eyes are absolutely breathtaking, even in something as subtle as a look across the room. Manville also brings a grounding performance that acts as the voice from a reason between Reynolds and Alma’s feuding.

From a technical standpoint, this movie is nearly flawless. The cinematography and direction are stunning and careful; every shot resembles a postcard. The still shots are interrupted only in scenes of great emotional intensity for Reynolds and Alma, and this contrast makes these moments all the more riveting. The sound design is crisp and jolting, lending to some very tense and sometimes comedic moments. All these elements come together to create a film that is as precise as Reynolds himself.

While all of these aspects are striking, the film’s greatest quality by far is the score composed by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. The music of this movie evokes emotions in unexpected moments. Every orchestrated piece flows perfectly with the plot and are all centered around a single piano melody that mirrors the film’s theme of subtlety. Even if you are not interested in this movie, the score is worth listening to online.

As much as I love this movie, it is certainly not for everyone. If you do not enjoy patient, slow-burning movies, then this film is not for you. And while the relationship between Alma and Reynolds is odd and wonderful, its strangeness could put some audience members at unease. Regardless, I highly recommend Phantom Thread, especially to those who love Paul Thomas Anderson. It is easily the most well-acted, well made movies of 2017 and will go down as one of Anderson’s best.