Adam N’s review published on Letterboxd:
On this (my third) viewing of The Master, I think I finally saw it more as the character study that it is at its core than the engrossing story of Freddie and his interactions with "The Cause" and The Master at its helm. As I further looked into the character of Freddie, the more terrified I became. It was a new and unique look at the film for me, and the inspection of Freddie finally revealed to me what I now feel to be the main idea behind the film, which is, to put it simply: you can never escape your past. Not only is it what forms the hilariously terrifying and incredibly interesting character of Freddie (who dare I say might be the most interesting character in film since Daniel Plainview) through his PTSD from the war, but it is what forms every bit of the plot. Besides the war, Freddie is even more shaken and molded from leaving the girl he loves, and being afraid to return to her in his disturbed alcoholic state. Even more he finds he can't leave his past behind, and the possibility that he may have killed a man who drank too much of his homemade liquor gives him fear. Freddie eventually finds The Cause when he is trying to leave this fear of killing the man behind. However even The Cause seems at its root, devoted to connecting to the past (or what they believe to be 'past lives' of humans that people can experience and relive). The past just keeps catching up on Freddie, and it terrifies him, and when the film finally comes to its final scene, and you find alone back where he began, you realize that his life will consist of this cycle for his whole life.
Additionally a point I would like to point out, further expanding on how great a character Freddie is, is how flawless Phoenix's performance of him was. So flawless in fact that I know, despite how confident I am with Paul Thomas Anderson's abilities, that the movie would falter with anyone but him portraying Freddie. Now that might not be entirely true, the fact still stands that the character is just too detailed and intense, that it would be near impossible to pull him off, and Phoenix simply hit it far out into the grandstands.