For an actor held in such high revere to decide to bow-out of the limelight at a relatively young age rarely happens. But if reports are to be believed, this indeed will be Day-Lewis’s final film.
Reynolds Woodcock, Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood, My Left Foot), is a man with few redeeming qualities other than he is a renowned dressmaker.
He lives his life in a very rigid and predictable way, a way which means everyone must bow to his likes and dislikes, and bow they do. Even his sister Cyril, Lesley Manville (Maleficent, Mr. Turner), eats her breakfast in silence so as not to disturb him, though she also has a vicious streak too.
Woodcock is happy in this life but struggles to find a woman who can live up to his high-standards, that is until he meets Alma, Vicky Krieps (Hanna, The Colony), a waitress who, it transpires, is also a strong willed and determined woman.
Alma won’t bow to Woodcock’s foibles, actively calling him out for being too fussy. She arranges a surprise for him despite knowing he won’t like it and Cyril telling her it’s a bad idea.
She ploughs ahead with, what she describes as, her way of loving him, her way of getting to know him. This generally infuriates Woodcock who can’t understand what on earth she’s playing at.
After a particularly vicious and childish spat at the dinner table one evening, Alma, rather than ‘fucking off’ as told to by Woodcock, instead decides to poison him and make him ill, to make him reliant on her, need her and, hopefully, want her.
What follows is a love story the likes of which you probably won’t have seen committed to screen before, but you may well have heard about similar situations, it happens more than you may believe.
It’s fair to say that, for a lot of people, Paul Thomas Anderson is a Marmite sort of writer and director. That is, you either love his films and the effort he puts in, or you really don’t.
He has covered a range of genres and topics from 1997’s Boogie Nights through to the 2007 There Will Be Blood and 2014’s Inherent Vice. His films are always passionate, if nothing else.
Phantom Thread is different again; a slow, methodical love story that takes us, the viewers, on a journey many of us will have experienced to varying degrees. That is, when you think about it, the madness of love.
Two people living very separate lives, coming together, quite suddenly relatively speaking, and having to learn to accept each other’s quirks, foibles, passions and approaches.
As an example, Woodcock likes to have a nice quiet breakfast. Very quiet. So, when Alma begins noisily spreading butter on her toast, crunching the knife through it, it’s like fingernails on a blackboard to him, whereas to others, they may not even notice.
Some people, some couples, are lucky enough to discuss these things openly and honestly, compromise, for many, they grit their teeth and get on with it whilst others let it fester and build.
Woodcock elects for the blunt approach, on all occasions, and Day-Lewis is, as always, a master at the hard-line, no-nonsense approach. From genteel and smiling to someone you suspect could be homicidal, the transformation requires a second look.
Alma is a wonderful character to bring into this near-perfect world and Krieps plays the part with aplomb. Her frustrations with Woodcock are clear but so is her love. The fact she doesn’t just get up and leave can leave you scratching your head at first, but keep watching, as it pays off later in Krieps’s performance.
Whilst I can appreciate not everyone will get on with Phantom Thread, I’m sure we can all appreciate the great performances, the nice directing, lovely touches in sound and the occasional very funny scenes at least.
Is this a fitting sign-off for Day-Lewis? I can’t honestly say it’s the best performance I’ve seen him give, but that’s mainly because he’s set the bar so high previously. I’d like to have seen him tackle something completely different, right out of his comfort zone, why not? Go for it, do a rom-com or sci-fi or something. Sadly, and probably correctly, it isn’t to be. If it truly is fair well, it’s a sad loss to the screen.