Wednesday, January 24, 2018


I first heard about this film in the early part of 2017 when we were working on our Most Anticipated Films of 2017 list for Merc With A Movie Blog.  One of our writers had on his list “Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Fashion Project”.  It had no name, and Daniel Day-Lewis’ name was nowhere near it, but ever since then, it had me intrigued.  Then a few months later, a rumor popped up that the film was being called Phantom Thread.  No one knew if this was real or just a working title, and it wasn’t until a few more months later that it was confirmed as the title and revealed that Daniel Day-Lewis would be starring in it, for his final role ever.

Now, before I start, I must admit, I have never actually seen a Daniel Day-Lewis film before.  I know, it’s a travesty, but it is what it is, so this was my first time seeing him display his craft.  The man that many say is the single greatest living actor, and possibly the greatest actor of all time.  And if I’m being completely honest, even though he gave a stellar performance here, this one didn’t scream “greatest actor ever” to me, which is a bit disappointing.

Phantom Thread tells the story of a famous and beloved dressmaker, named Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), who are at the center of British fashion in the 1950’s, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutantes and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by love.

This is a beautifully made film, and Paul Thomas Anderson does a fantastic job bringing out the emotion of these characters and showing them off on screen in a convincing and intriguing manner.  His use of camera angles, his color palette, and even the music, all fit perfectly here and helped to enhance the film.  It’s compelling and dark at times, and is a love story like none I’ve seen before.  

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Daniel Day-Lewis, even though his performance didn’t scream “greatest actor ever” as I said, gave us a gripping portrayal of a man so centered on himself and his work that he shuts everyone else out.  He doesn’t allow Alma to get close to him in the way she wants, and you can see how this affects her, and how it eventually affects him.  His best scenes are when he’s sick and vulnerable, as it allows him to be emotive and show more range.  Vicky Krieps gives my favorite performance in this entire film.  She perfectly displays the emotions of a woman yearning for love and attention.  You can see her despair at times, and her determination at others.  It’s riveting from start to finish.  And then there’s Lesley Manville who gives us a knockout portrayal of a manipulative, controlling sister who cares only for herself, her brother, and their business.  The three of them together deliver a fascinating dynamic, and are what make the film great.

Although, as I said, this is a great film, it isn’t without flaws.  The first act is a bit slow for me, and I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on.  It eventually became clear, but seeing as I knew literally nothing about this film, I didn’t know what kind of story I was walking into, and therefore had a bit of a tougher time grasping what they were setting up.  This isn’t the usual type of film that I’m drawn to, so I wasn’t sure how I’d like it as it went on, but Anderson managed to put together something so interesting that I actually want to see it again, now that I fully understand what’s going on.  I feel like I will enjoy it more the second time around, but I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Overall, I really enjoyed Phantom Thread and definitely think people should check it out.  Even if you don’t think it’ll be your cup of tea, give it a try anyways.  It may surprise you.  And this has definitely made me want to go back and check out Daniel Day-Lewis’ other films to see if he really does live up to all the hype.

The Merc’s Score: 8.5/10

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