Phantom Thread: An Elegantly Weaved Psychological Masterpiece
Movie Review by Anirudh Madhav (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
A peek into Reynold Woodcock’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) morning routine establishes his character. Phantom Thread is a film that pays attention to the details in every frame. Every aspect of the lead character has been well-thought upon right from his attire, polished shoes to his character having breakfast in stoic silence. The magic of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread lies in how the director engages the audience by creating a sense of mystery surrounding the relationship between Reynold and Alma (Vicky Krieps), despite the lack of a solid storyline.
Set in the 1950s London, Reynold is a fashion designer for wealthy socialites. He leads a successful fashion house with a dedicated team of designers along with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville). Despite their contrasting nature, Alma becomes Reynold’s muse and lover. She wreaks havoc on Reynold emotionally, which affects his work. Their journey, the chaos and the silence, followed by mesmerizing music, forms a strange romantic tale.
From the noise of the scraping plates to the sound of tea being poured from the kettle; sound design and music by John Greenwood, almost stands out as a character in the film and gives fresh impetus to the chaotic relation between the lead characters. While Reynold craves for silence at the dining table, Alma ensures that she purposely creates noise. A particularly impactful scene is the buttered asparagus dinner sequence that leads to a major argument between Reynold and Alma and brings out their contrasting nature effectively. The sequence also brings out one of Vicky Krieps’ best performances till date and stays with you long after the movie ends.
Paul Thomas Anderson focuses on showcasing visual beauty throughout the film and successfully manages to transcend his vision onscreen. The characters, cutlery, food and even the work carried out at Reynold’s fashion house exude beauty.
Another aspect that is worth mentioning is Anderson’s way of narrating the story. There is a sequence where Reynold’s workers fixing a damaged wedding dress scene is shown alternately with an ill Reynold being nursed by Alma. It is almost like the scenes work as metaphor for each other. The poignant sequence showcases highest level of storytelling and puts forth Anderson’s genius.
Phantom Thread does not really have a linear storyline. It follows a complex psychological approach to the chemistry between the lead characters. The performances of the lead characters are realistic, complex and also have elements of humor reflected through their mannerisms and expressions. The movie stands out for its artistic beauty, haunting music and strong performances, and is definitely of one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece that will remain etched in memory.