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'Phantom Thread' Film Review: Daniel Day-Lewis marks his retirement by stitching together one final noteworthy performance

January 5, 2018Britany Murphy

When the news of Daniel Day-Lewis' retirement broke, many film fans around the world were shocked and saddened to learn that one of the most talented and respected actors of this generation would be stepping away from the spotlight. However, they will certainly delight in Day-Lewis' final performance in Phantom Thread.

Set in post-war London during the 1950s, director Paul Thomas Anderson's eighth feature film follows the life of famed dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis), who has the fortune of costuming celebrities, royalty, socialites, debutantes and more with his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), by his side. Being charming and eccentric, Reynolds is constantly surrounded by a bevy of women who help him make his clothes, provide him with companionship or serve as his muse. However, he tires of his lovers easily, and, unfortunately, it's usually up to Cyril to break the news to the unsuspecting woman, as Reynolds is typically too busy with his work to be bothered.

But things take an unexpected turn for Reynolds when he decides to take a break from his busy life and gain some perspective in the English countryside. While at a quaint local restaurant for breakfast, Reynolds meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a waitress a couple decades his junior who immediately commands both his attention and his affection. Cyril, on the other hand, is wary about the new woman in her brother's life, especially since Alma is much different than the women Reynolds has courted in the past. Cyril also seems to be one of the few who notice that Alma has made the once-controlled couturier more prone to bouts of being unbound and free.

Much like everything else in Reynolds' life, however, his love for Alma seems to pale in compassion to his passion for his craft, and the confirmed bachelor eventually begins to lose interest, finding many of the attitudes and mannerisms he once enjoyed about her to be a source of distraction or repulsion. The pair go through their fair share of lover's quarrels, but when Cyril suggests that perhaps it might be best for Alma to take her leave, the headstrong young woman refuses. Instead, Alma concocts her own plan to show both Cyril and Reynolds how much he truly needs her. The question is: Just how far is Alma willing to go?

This being Anderson's second collaboration with Day-Lewis, it's easy to tell that the dynamic duo work well together. In Phantom Thread, not only is the cinematography and the score engaging and ofttimes beautiful, but the performances from Day-Lewis, Manville and Krieps truly capture the viewer's attention. For the most part, the characters are not at all ones that can be easily loved, but you still find yourself rooting for them to be better — to do better. It really is an ode to the cast's wonderful portrayals of their respective roles.

Phantom Thread is unlike any of Anderson's past films, and while it could be deemed a love story — albeit a darkly humorous and truly unconventional one — it definitely cannot be considered swoon-worthy. Instead, the movie focuses on the complexities of love and the harsh truth that while we may find someone special, relationships are often fraught with troubles and can potentially lead a person to an extremely dark place. Still, the film does not deter the viewer from love as a whole, although it's far from your standard romantic fare.

Phantom Thread releases January 5th, 2018 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 10 min.

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