Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film, Phantom Thread, sees Daniel Day-Lewis play a respected fashion designer who meets a waitress and starts a rather awkward relationship with her. This is, as far as we know, probably the actor's final performance in a film.
In contrast to the grim and intense There Will Be Blood, this new film seemed like a potentially lighter and less depressing effort. In a way, this is true since we're dealing with a man who makes dresses rather than a scary moustached man who sucks up oil "milkshakes" from the ground but this remains another typically unnerving and dark P. T. Anderson creation. The point of the film not being the dress-making itself as this isn't exactly a biopic, but rather everything else. It's the relationship between the fussy and closed-off yet undeniably talented Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps) that takes centre stage. Woodcock is shown to be a true artist and a perfectionist when it comes to his work as well as an occasionally charming man but this is tainted by several off-putting traits which Alma quickly finds out about. Their first date says it all: one second they're sharing a sweet moment by the fire, the next he's measuring every inch of her as she stands confused in her underwear while Woodcock's intimidating sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) watches. It's a very awkward dynamic and this escalates throughout.
You can definitely tell P. T. Anderson was heavily influenced by Alfred Hitchcock in this one from the gorgeous 60's-style cinematography to the twisted romance. Vertigo and Rebecca are the most obvious references but there's also some Marnie in there. You expect the film to show how Woodcock's perfectionism in every aspect of his life and his unhealthy obsession with his dead mother can lead to him repeating a pattern of meeting a woman, controlling her like one of his dresses, then discarding her like she's nothing. Then, in a clever twist, Phantom Thread throws a wrench in that and Alma proves herself to be more than just a naive victim thereby leading to a rather bizarre yet somehow uplifting third act. The film explores themes like art, love, control and lack thereof with exactly the amount of subtlety and precision Hitchcock himself would have used. Those expecting something as explosive as The Master might find this movie a little slow at times but it looks so beautiful and the performances are so good that you'll quickly forgive whatever pacing issues the film might have: this is one that stays with you long after it's over.
Phantom Thread is a fascinating look at the intricacies of human relationships that exposes how messed-up we can be but also how we can somehow make it work for us. Daniel Day-Lewis, once again, delivers a brilliant and flawless performance and it's certainly a strong one to end on, not to mention one that would deserve an Oscar nod at the very least.