REVIEW: Daniel Day-Lewis’ Farewell Film ‘Phantom Thread’ Showcases His Wide-Ranging Ability

I wasn’t sure what to expect stepping into the theater to see Daniel Day-Lewis’ final performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s newest film Phantom Thread. While Anderson has not disappointed in his previous films such as There Will Be Blood (2007) and The Master (2012), I was expecting to watch the all-too-typical 1950’s love story. This is in fact a 1950’s love story, but to my surprise, not typical.

Photo Credit: Vox

The film centers around esteemed dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) who designs dresses for London’s most glamorous women with the help from his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville). Woodcock lives a tailored life as a bachelor, until he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a young and headstrong woman who rattles his daily routines. But there is something that continuously attracts Woodcock to Alma, as she is the only one who can make him feel vulnerable to his life, in rather a sickly way.

Anderson creates a screenplay that shows a different side of love, and while intense and perhaps strange, it focuses on the vulnerability of being in a relationship. Woodcock and Alma are clearly in love, and while viewers get to watch their full relationship form, there is a part that cannot be understood––a reflection of how exclusive love can be. Intimate moments occur behind closed doors, and the unique affection that audiences get to watch between the two is when Woodcock dresses Alma in his designs. Yet Alma is more than a muse for him. She proves to be different from his past relationships because she is not afraid to take him outside of his customs. 

A large part of this film is what is hidden. Not only is this shown through Woodcock and Alma’s relationship, but in various other forms as well. Perhaps one of the largest is when Woodcock explains how he hides little messages in each dress he creates that only he knows are there (hence the movie’s title). It is not until the film’s final moments that viewers can truly get some understanding of Woodcock and Alma, and what their relationship really is. However, some questions are left unanswered. 

Photo Credit: Vox

From the moment this movie begins, its beauty can be instantly recognized. With a score by Jonny Greenwood, Paul Thomas Anderson’s go-to composer (for a good reason), viewers are transported into the elegant life and home of Reynolds Woodcock. While the score begins to introduce a polished, lavish lifestyle, there is also a quick acknowledgment of Woodcock’s particular mannerisms that are not so elegant. While there is a part of Woodcock that viewers do not understand in his relationship with Alma, he alone can be understood so deeply that his aggravations become the audience’s as well. From Alma loudly buttering her toast to being disturbed while at work, each disruption has the audience cringing alongside Daniel Day-Lewis.

This rich understanding of Woodcock is of course mainly attributed to Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of the character. Woodcock is not meant to be fully understood; from his unusual quirks to his intense relationship with Alma, his character is complex in every form. Yet Day-Lewis showcases what it means to be a great actor as he makes Reynolds Woodcock become more than just a figure on a screen, and rather one who makes a large impression on audiences. The beauty of this film is largely due to Day-Lewis, and while Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville both give extraordinary performances, nobody can take their eyes off of Reynolds Woodcock. 

In his final film, Daniel Day-Lewis once again becomes his character, reminding us all of why he is truly one of the greatest actors of our generation, and what a loss it will be for Hollywood without him.

 

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Cover Photo Credits: Time Magazine