Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” is a carefully manicured period drama rife with meticulous close-ups of needles pulling through fabric, scenes of characters intensely staring at each other and an obsessive focus on the minutiae of an eccentric man’s personal and professional routines.
Consistent with the rest of the filmmaker’s prestigious oeuvre, especially when seen in the 70-milimeter format, it is so thoughtfully composed and packed with images of startling beauty, enhanced by a lush Jonny Greenwood score, that you’d be happily content simply watching stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps circle each other and engage in the relentless power play that defines their characters’ relationship.
In other respects, the movie defies the expectations typically associated with one of Anderson’s more serious-minded productions, especially given the presence of Day-Lewis, who has spent the past 20 years largely playing enormous, larger-than-life types like Daniel Plainview in his last picture with the director, “There Will Be Blood.” And this looks to be the final time Day-Lewis will appear on screen: The actor announced in June that he is retiring from acting.
This is a romantic drama with a notable undercurrent of comedy and it’s inherently relatable, even when it goes to an off-kilter place.
It’s set in a fully realized time and place — 1950s London, within the studio of dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis). He brings waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps) into his orbit and the movie depicts the collective struggle on the part of each protagonist to shape the other into their ideal picture of a mate.
The heavily refined, tightly controlled atmosphere belies a movie that is in fact decidedly contemporary and accessible. Day-Lewis plays a stern and rigid character with notes of hidden warmth and vulnerability that have been a part of his repertoire for decades, but scarce lately.
Krieps matches his every step, a notable achievement when faced with the most prestigious thespian in the business as your scene partner.
You come to understand these people and to see in their heightened relationship a rich comprehension of a fundamental facet of falling in love and beginning a life together that’s often not explored: the compromises involved.