Robert’s review published on Letterboxd:
My issue with Phantom Thread, so it seems, is precisely related to the fact that it doesn't seem to have any vigour in how it goes about in telling its story. Paul Thomas Anderson manages to build a completely flat, uninteresting and dour film whose only strong points are stowed in technical departments. Yes, the camerawork and score are both something entirely special and do wonders in tandem; but -- excuse me for lack of a better phrase -- isn't this another instance for the too-little-too-late saying? Again, I'm fully aware of what Paul Thomas Anderson wanted to concoct here. I get the allegory on creation and inspiration and having something or someone to nourish you so you put out that very best in that final product, but what is the deal here? The romance herein is one I've never had any sliver of faith in. He finds her. Fast forward. She's his muse. Things go awry. Yes.
In point of fact, the ending is like so to prove to the audience that ostensibly tough men faced with mortality are warm and tender and that maybe all of the ornery behaviour and scoffs and cynicisms before were quite unwarranted. For a romance like this to quantize, one has to tragically go. It's interesting to see how there's a mutual satisfaction between both partners in those last few moments. Perhaps leaving on a high always the way to go. Woodcock is a prissy and obstinate designer, and his ego is most certainly a consequence of his reputation. It's made clear from the overture of the film, and is continually hinted at throughout its runtime. Very fair; but why exactly is Alma so endearing towards him? She does have no backstory, but that's not the point. I don't know how she was brought up, or why she's even so cordial towards Day-Lewis' character -- yes, having stout, opulent men turn to affable people for once is worth everything -- but I reckon that's a case for the Stockholm syndrome.
Now, let's be honest here. The fact that it's shot on film gives it that iconic allure that digital can't ever match. How quaint it seems, and seriously how pretty yet engulfing that NYE ballroom scene is. That's some wonderful contrast -- he's so forlorn and miserable with those lugubrious darks in his clothing, while she's so visibly enjoying the moment. Until she sees him, that is.
In addition, I did manage to apprehend the mother figure absence that impacted Daniel Day Lewis' character. It's clearly a very sound concept that Vicky Krieps would fill in that role for him, and it's instantly evident how much he's appreciative of that. The interplay between those two actors is magical, and, if anything, that's a highlight reel duo for you. The acting is as good as they come, and so are the soundtrack and camerawork departments; but the narrative? Not quite.
Phantom Thread is featured in my film stills list.