REVIEW: ‘Phantom Thread’ Is A Fascinating Look At An Obsessive Relationship

Writer and Director Paul Thomas Anderson gives audiences a look into obsessive minds in his latest picture “Phantom Thread.”

The film, set in 1950s London, tells the story of a successful dress designer named Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis). During a trip to the country where he gets away from the glitz and glamour, Reynolds meets a young woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), and the two hit it off.

After their initial meeting, Reynolds has Alma try on some of the clothes he’s designed and after time passes she becomes his muse and later his lover. The picture details how their personalities both blend and clash as the story progresses.

Like the lead character he created for this film, Anderson takes great care with his art. The film’s story, for example, is told very well, as it reveals more true intentions, quirks and obsessions that the lead characters have.

This, of course, is done by exploring and detailing the relationship between Alma and Reynolds. It’s a relationship that’s unpredictable, it’s hard to judge where exactly it’s going to go and what move a character will make. As a result, there is a layer of suspense added to their interactions, thus giving the movie some good intrigue.

The film is also quite well written, with a good amount of serious dialogue balanced out with well-timed moments of solid humor. It keeps the flick unique, setting it apart with from others. It’s apparent from many scenes that the script is quite heavy, as an audience hangs on every word of a character.

Of course, the writing in the movie is given a natural boost thanks to the acting. As expected, three-time Oscar winner Day-Lewis is superb as Reynolds. He gives the character a fierce intensity, as Reynolds is often portrayed having a laser focus on one of his projects and liking things in his life to be done very specifically.

Krieps, meanwhile, is great at portraying the character acting opposite of Reynolds. The character is often put off by Reynold’s serious antics and yet remains drawn to him and Krieps nails that frustration. It’s also noticeable how well both performers pull off the obsession and the seduction that takes place between both characters. There’s a constant push and pull created between the two, which is rather bizarre yet interesting to watch.

It also has to be said that the camera and the design work was exquisite in how it was put together. Anderson and his crew made a proper period piece, recreating the look of the 1950s. Every shot, meanwhile, served a purpose, especially those that were held for nearly the entire scene, allowing for all the emotions to be captured by the camera.

The picture does lose some points when it comes to its ending, though. What feels like a movie that could have ended with quite a climax just drifts off without saying that much. After having some very charged sequences, the wrap-up in the third act was somewhat frustrating. It’s also very much a film that’s engaging in the moment, but one that doesn’t necessarily stick with you like some other dramas can do. This may have been because while the movie does display a two-way obsessive and at times abusive relationship, it doesn’t go into the depths of what that all means.

So, overall, “Phantom Thread” isn’t perfect and it’s also not a movie that any moviegoer out there will enjoy. It’s somewhat similar to last year’s “Elle” in that respect. Still, as a piece of art, it’s a fine movie with a lot going for it. 4.4 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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