Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread ★★★½

Paul Thomas Anderson ventures down a fastidious route with Phantom Thread, a film where each technical facet is craft to a painstaking degree of precision and perfectionism. The most noteworthy examples of this mastery being Anderson's almost sensual focus on the delicate texture of fabric or emphasis on soft skin, and use of sound design, particularly the gawky noise of crunching and spreading butter during the breakfast scene. It goes without saying but Daniel Day-Lewis is predictably on top form as always, however, Lesley Manville's strict Cyril is the standout. Whilst on the subject of obligatory praise, Greenwood's lavish score provides a consistently elegant presence throughout the film, without being overbearing like some have criticised it for. I appreciate PTA going for a more subdued directorial style this time around, similar to what he done with The Master - my joint favourite of his (along with Magnolia). Its restraint is not only felt due to being low-scale in contrast to the rest of his filmography, but rather present in its still compositions and use of timing - for instance, Alma's delayed reaction to Woodcock asking to marry her, being one of the film's highlights.

Yet, for all this scrupulous attention to detail, the film is frustratingly stuck within second-gear, which contributes to my unfortunate detachment towards it. Phantom Thread firmly plots its trajectory by expressing the toxicity in Woodcock and Alma's strained relationship right off the bat, but then after this is established it's just content to retread a familiar series of bickering, repetitious dynamics between the two. I know my own expectations are to partially blame for faulting it for a lack of shifts in narrative, but it's feels like it's continuously lodged in a phase of build-up to the extend that its payoff won't be worth it. By the third act, the film detours slightly but results in Woodcock and Alma's relationship coming to an unsurprising resolution. It's a film that comes together in the last few minutes well enough, but there's far too much space throughout and personal disconnect for it land as solidly as PTA's other work. Maybe a rewatch will do the trick? I still liked it, though, but I wish I did far more.

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