Whatever you do, do it carefully.
With this odd tale of an eccentric dress-maker in 1950s London, PTA has crafted a strange, beguiling masterpiece. The film mostly concerns itself with the dressmaker, Reynolds, and his relationships with two women, his young muse and his cold-blooded sister. Together the three of them form a triangle of stubbornness and the film is about the manipulations, deceits and, occasionally, brutal truths these three people use to navigate this fraught triangle. If this sounds like a slow, dull, drawing-room affair, well, it isn’t. Daniel Day-Lewis is brilliant, absolutely brilliant, as Reynolds; no more really needs to be said about that except to say that I’m very skeptical that his “retirement” is actually going to happen – I expect him to be back sometime or other. Lesley Manville is a force of nature as the sister, a woman who delivers crushing dialogue without a flicker, an icy force for tradition. Vickey Krieps is also very good as the young muse, Alma, a young woman that refuses to play the role Reynolds requires her to play. Also worth mentioning is Harriet Harrison, stalwart character actor and always a joy, who shows up in a very small role and just steals every scene she’s in. Phantom Thread is an odd movie and, in many ways, it seems an odd subject for Anderson; then again, though the setting isn’t a typical one for him, the outsized nature of the characters go right along with his usual themes. He’s to be commended for once again making a movie without giving, as Reynolds once blurts, “a tinker’s ******* curse” about whether there’s a single likable character or not and for delving so deeply into these characters that you find yourself intrigued by them, rather than simply repulsed. And then there’s the score by Jonny Greenwood; I think it’s his most beautiful and most mature work as a composer and it adds immeasurably to the film. At the end of the day, this strange, transfixing movie is everything it needs to be and more, a movie excellent in every detail. Reynolds himself might approve. 4 stars.
tl;dr – an outstanding cast, a strange screenplay and transfixing direction all combine to make Phantom Thread a haunting, compelling masterpiece; PTA’s crafted another perfect film. 4 stars.