Josiah Morgan’s review published on Letterboxd:
My 5 star reviews are becoming more and more frequent lately. Either I'm becoming more positive or I'm watching better films...
The Master is just one in a chain of stellar recently watched 5 star films. It was also the only rating I felt comfortable giving this. Anything less would be a betrayal.
As my first Paul Thomas Anderson film, I knew going in that this also seemed to be his most divisive. People don't really know what to make of The Master. And really, neither do I. The first half is very very slow and relies entirely on Joaquin Phoenix's performance. Don't get me wrong, the second half is slow too and that's part of the wonder of the film; but the first half it seems, nothing happens (spoiler alert: a lot actually has happened you just won't realise it yet).
On a surface level, The Master is a fascinating story. It takes place around the time of the rise of scientology, a movement with similar ideas to The Master himself.
On a subtextual level, however, The Master can be taken many ways: addiction could be a theme you could write about if you dig deep enough. The search for a family and a place you feel content. The endless hunt for something that makes you feel whole. It could perhaps be about love and how we define it. We could talk about manipulation and the human psyche.
The Master is a treasure trove that I can't wait to return to.