Review: Phantom Thread, an elegant period romance with magnetic performances

Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day Lewis in Phantom Thread

Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day Lewis in Phantom Thread - Credit: Archant

Acclaimed director, Paul Thomas Anderson returns with this tale set in the 1950s of Reynolds Woodcock, a renowned dressmaker in postwar London, whose fastidious lifestyle is disrupted when he falls for a strong willed young waitress.

Daniel Day Lewis stars as Woodcock, who together with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) runs the house of Woodcock, a designer dressmaker at the heart of British fashion.

Confirmed batchelor Woodcock draws inspiration from a string of temporary girlfriends who are invited into his home to act as his muse, only to be callously discarded when he tires of them.

However, the fussy dressmaker’s carefully planned existence is disrupted when he falls for Alma, a headstrong local waitress who refuses to become just another disposable mannequin for the Woodcock production line.

Little known actress, Vicky Krieps stars as Alma and impressively goes toe to toe with acting heavyweight Day Lewis, never looking out of place in such esteemed company. The gradual unveiling of her character and the gentle shift of power in the Woodcock household is at the real heart of the story.

Day Lewis is at his captivating best in a role that could well be his last, after announcing his retirement from acting last year. As usual, the English actor went to great lengths to prepare for the film, including learning to sew and apprenticing with the New York Ballet’s costume department.

The film’s slow, contemplative pace won’t be to everyone’s taste, and at times it does come across as pretentious. However, as things progress, it is impossible not to be drawn in by the magnetic performances of the leads.

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A delicate and uplifting score from Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood enhances the atmosphere.

Appropriately for a film about dressmaking, Phantom Thread was the winner of the best costume design Oscar at last week’s ceremony and it is clear to see why. The colourful period garments are meticulously recreated and add to the authentic feel of the film.

An elegant, period romance which focuses more on character than plot, Phantom Thread is a challenging but ultimately rewarding piece of work, with strong performances from newcomer Krieps and a fitting swan song to Daniel Day Lewis’s stellar acting career.