Some movies lend themselves to a charmed magic that stays with you long after the closing scene. Whether that mystique can be attributed to tone or setting, the actors or script, is very hard to say. In all likelihood, the spell such a film casts probably requires a combination of all of these things.
If you want a film that pushes you into the murkier depths of human psychology, do not miss “Phantom Thread.” The latest to highlight the sheer brilliance of seasoned actor Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread” proves as thought provoking as it does entertaining. Charmed magic abounds.
Writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson also directed Day-Lewis and wrote the screenplay for the award winning “There Will be Blood” (2007). He brings the same sharp-edged finesse to this film’s script, which inspires Day-Lewis’s portrayal of Reynolds Woodcock, a London dress designer, in multiple ways.
The quiet energy in Day-Lewis’s interpretation of his character proves flawless. Day-Lewis’s performance and that of the Luxembourg-born lovely Vicky Krieps, who plays his muse Alma, rests on the harmonic sensitivity to their characters and to each other. Scene after scene between these two has the capacity to relate the story without so much as a word between them.
The relationship between the fussy middle-aged Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and the much-younger Alma (Vicky Krieps) begins in an unlikely scenario. He’s left the city for a break and stops at a country inn. The beautiful young waitress serving him tea captures his attention. As a brilliant, haute-couture London dressmaker, Woodcock knows a thing or two about beauty, and within minutes after they meet, Alma agrees to have dinner with Woodcock. It’s not long before she’s installed at his London studio as his favorite model.
The time is post-war London, and fashion for the rich and powerful keeps the House of Woodcock afloat. Woodcock’s sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) looks out for his interests, determining how best to serve his genius. Whether Alma goes or stays is of little consequence to Cyril. Women have come and gone before. Given the circumstances, Alma’s manipulations will extend to Cyril, as well as to Woodstock.
Forces of human nature become far stronger than logic or reason. As things develop, as threads unravel, a disturbing truth comes to light in this well-woven tale. And it won’t be the simple truth that you expect.
Rated R for language.
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews 1999.