In what is billed as Daniel-Day Lewis’last movie before retirement, Phantom Thread is a lavish Gothic style British romance about an artiste named Reynolds Woodcock who designs gowns, and becomes besotted with a serving girl he meets in a restaurant one day. The film is set in the 1950s and is filmed entirely in England in various places. At 2 hours and 10 minutes it will seem a bit long to action junkies who get fidgety when a plot unfolds slowly. But this film unfolds like the making of a dress— stitch by stitch, and one thread woven together to another. There are some unexpected turns in the plot, which I will not spoil. It gets an R rating entirely because of some F words sprinkled around in the film, which proved unnecessary anyway. As my wife said, she doubts there was much of that sort of blue language among the British elites in the 1950s.
The performance by Day-Lewis is terrific, but Gary Oldman deserves the best actor award this year. Vicky Krieps, an actress from Luxembourg who plays Alma his love interest, is also quite excellent, as is Leslie Manville who plays Cyril, Woodcock’s sister and the manager of his clothing business.This is a movie that a psychologist would no doubt have a field day with. Woodcock has a lock of his mother’s hair sown into his favorite jacket, and has dreams of her in her wedding dress. No doubt we are also meant to think that because of his mommy issues, he became an older adult without marrying—- until Alma came along.
This movie is an interesting period piece, and takes one inside the world of haute couture. It’s the sort of life that one might enjoy viewing (the gowns and the workmanship are glorious) but not taking part in. The two lead characters have their quirks, and they feed off of each other’s eccentricities. The film retains your interest out of sheer curiosity as to what might happen next. In the case of Woodcock, one asks will he ever stop being a narcissistic, self-indulgent overly precious person? Can love finally tame the man?