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Phantom Thread  : Sewn To Secrecy
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Friday, February 2, 2018
Paul Thomas Anderson
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville

Celebrity dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock describes himself as an incurable bachelor. Fussy and fastidious, the house of Woodcock reverberates with the silence of his team tiptoeing efficiently around him. His unmarried sister Cyril ensures that he’s insulated from all distractions and irritations, even ejecting the women in his life who get too demanding. “I have no time for confrontation,” says Reynolds, leaving Cyril to clean up the emotional mess.


Into this structured life arrives waitress Alma. When the sound of her buttering a toast or pouring tea into a cup at the breakfast table gets annoyingly heightened for Reynolds, his sister suggests that perhaps Alma should start having breakfast in her room.


It does seem like Alma will either have to fall in line and be the silent muse at the beck and call of Reynolds or join those who’ve been shown the door by Cyril.


It’s neither as a layer of Alma’s strong-willed personality reveals a determination to do anything to keep her man by her side. What’s surprising is that Reynolds lets her get away with it, even becoming a part of her secret. As the film ends on that perplexing note, I wonder if it’s an ego-boost for a man to be with a woman who loves him so much that she’ll go to impossible lengths to get him.


Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson conjures a wonderful world of couturier where all that consumes the dressmaker and a sea of seamstresses is the elaborate process of creating a dress. Until his current muse creates the kind of upset Reynolds is not used to.


With Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis around, Reynolds becomes a compelling, fascinating character with dark hints of a deep attachment to his dead mother. But his performance really gets a lift from the quietly beautiful presence of Vicky Krieps as Alma. Leslie Manville has a frozen efficiency about her as sister Cyril.


John Greenwood’s music adds to the intrigue, drumming up drama that requires no dialogue.


However, Anderson’s film is leisurely and unrelenting to the point of being boring, so don’t go looking for a quick round of entertainment.


Since Daniel Day-Lewis has announced his retirement from acting, Phantom Thread is like the last hurrah that needs to be watched by his admirers.


For a drama that unfolds against the interesting backdrop of dressmaking, Phantom Thread gets a 3* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author
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