Oscar Week Film Review: Phantom Thread

It may be Daniel Day-Lewis’ apparent last hurrah but Phantom Thread is all about Lesley Manville’s world-conquering excellence.

“No one gives a tinker’s fucking curse about Mrs. Vaughn’s satisfaction!”

Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and nominated for 6 Academy Awards, a lot of the attention around Phantom Thread has been around Daniel Day-Lewis’ announcement that this would be his last film role. But for me (and for any right-thinking folk), the pleasure comes from a scene-stealing supporting role for Lesley Manville which has garnered her one of those nods. (Not sure if she’ll be attending the ceremony though or giving her understudy a brief moment in the sun.)

And it is an unexpectedly engaging and surprising film. Day-Lewis plays fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock whose rule on the world of 1950s London couture is slowly slipping due to the arrival of the New Wave. His audacious arrogance, sorry artistic temperament, is brought into question when he meets Belgian waitress Alma but when a romance sparks up between the pair, the result is a far from conventional affair which leaves its gender dynamics entirely shooketh.

Day-Lewis is predictably intense and fiercely committed, and Vicky Krieps manages well to complement him as Alma. Manville plays Cyril, Reynolds’ withering sister and business partner and drips wonderfully with disdain with every line she delivers yet also finding pathos in her too, as we see the struggle it takes for her to compose a smile on her face before she opens the door to let the outside world in. (And in that scene, it is Gina McKee getting a fabulous Kate Winslet-hat money shot to give us all life.)

Phantom Thread is full of gorgeous touches and nifty surprises. A warning against mushrooms, a brief but vivid cameo from Julia Davis, stunning costumes from Mark Bridges, hidden messages, a luscious score by Jonny Greenwood. Altogether, a striking and memorable look at how strange love can be. 

Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

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