"Phantom Thread" Movie Review

Updated on August 22, 2019
popcollin profile image

Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).

Phantom Thread
Phantom Thread | Source

Daniel Day-Lewis remains the only man to earn three Best Actor awards, and though he won’t win a fourth (Gary Oldman is a stone-cold lock to win this year for his stellar turn in Darkest Hour), it won’t be for lack of effort. As fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread, Day-Lewis turns in one of the more haunting and personal performances of his career. Even at that, however, I’d argue the great Day-Lewis is actually overshadowed by his two co-stars—a testament to the phenomenal performances that help make the film one of the more memorable of the year. It will get inside your head and simply not let go.

Under the direction of Paul Thomas Anderson, who shepherded Day-Lewis to his second Oscar (for 2007’s There Will Be Blood), the movie itself is completely mesmerizing, though it sneaks up slowly on you. Set in England during the post-war 1950s, Phantom Thread starts out looking like something from the Merchant-Ivory oeuvre, but it eventually reveals itself to be unexpectedly twisted and even darkly romantic.

Early on we see Woodcock instructing his sister and business partner Cyril (Lesley Manville), whom he calls his “old so and so”, to dispatch of his current girlfriend by sending her on her way with one of his couture dresses as recompense. This is a man married to his work, with little inclination to let anything else into his life.

But then Woodcock meets the young waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps) during a weekend break in the country. He is instantly struck by her as she waits on him at a little cafe, and he asks her to dinner. She accepts, and their evening concludes with him taking her measurements to make a new dress in an oddly haunting scene. Overnight she becomes not only his companion but his muse, and from there, the film begins its shift.

Alma is determined to not only maintain her place in the house but in his life as well. Woodcock, to this point, has been portrayed as egotistical and controlling; the mere sound of a butter knife scraping on a piece of toast at breakfast is enough to get him agitated and ruin his day. But Alma, with Cyril’s backing, is slowly bringing about a change, and the film’s true nature starts to be revealed. This isn’t merely a drawing-room period piece, it’s a mind-blowing character study and an intriguing drama that delicately unfolds into something far more sinister.

Krieps and Manville do more than hold their own with Day-Lewis, they actually steal the movie from him—no mean feat, since his performance here is among his finest. All three of them combine to provide a masterclass in subtlety and nuance as they simply become their characters. It doesn't take long for the actors Day-Lewis, Krieps, and Manville to simply disappear.

Fans of Paul Thomas Anderson know he rarely (if ever) makes a good ol’ fashioned, straightforward movie; there’s always something else lurking, and Phantom Thread is no exception. Working from his own script (which Day-Lewis contributed to), Anderson has crafted a brilliant and smart film that’s as heady as it is haunting, a true work of art that may actually required a repeat viewing (or two) to truly appreciate.

If this is in fact the last film of Day-Lewis’ career (he announced his retirement from acting last June), it’s one heck of a swansong. And though with his resumé it’s difficult to say he saved his best for last, one thing is certain—his presence on the screen will be missed by both film scholars and audiences alike, a pang made even more real in the wake of the masterpiece Phantom Thread.


5/5 stars

'Phantom Thread' trailer


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)