There are few things that many women universally love and covet, but Phantom Thread focuses on two: beautiful things to wear and the love of a man. Both can make a woman feel lovely, wanted and desired. However, if anything comes between her and the things or person who makes her feel this way, retaliation is expected.
In 1950s London, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a renowned dressmaker. When he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a waitress, he takes her out and before the night is over, he is making her a lovely new dress. She becomes his muse and lover, well dressed on his arm, living and working alongside him and his ever present sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville). But the novelty of Alma’s presence begins to wane, and she can sense it wearing on Reynold’s and straining his lifestyle.
Alma describes Woodcock’s as a demanding man. He can often be so cold and focused on his work that even someone buttering toast can get on his nerves. At times, the stress gets to him and you can almost see loose ends of his patience fraying. And when his usual schedule is interrupted, he can verbally lash out. But Alma loves him most when he is in a slump, where he curls up in bed and just needs someone to take care of him. She yearns for these few tender moments with him.
The relationship between Alma and Reynolds is very odd. It’s romantic, gothically romantic, but not seem very loving. It can be very professional at times, with Alma helping to make and model dresses. And there is some intangible bond between the two, something that connects Alma’s strong will and Reynold’s fastidiousness in a way that can only work for them. It can leave many baffled.
Phantom Thread is currently holds six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Daniel Day-Lewis is nominated for lead actor, his sixth nomination in the category that could lead to his fourth win. Lesley Manville is nominated for supporting actress in her role as Cyril. Paul Thomas Anderson is nominated for best director for the second time. Composer Jonny Greenwood is nominated for his original score. And with all the exquisite dresses, it’s no wonder the film is nominated for best costume design.
To be frank, the film is a very slow burn and most of the action is through dress making and dialogue. Yet, I was surprised how captivating I found it. I clung to every gesture and glance between Lewis and Krieps. The drama and tension created between the characters is so intriguing. And best of all, the crowd in the theater seemed just as invested, gasping at an insult and laughing at a snide remark with perfect timing.
“There is an air of quiet death in this house. I don’t like the way it smells.”