Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread ★★★★★

The gorgeously, gradually twisted psychology of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread is the drive which gives the film its exuberant life. Amidst the deceptively straight-edged beauty of its costume and set design, restraint gives way to increasingly obvious displays of domination and control. Power balances shift from act to act, bubbling under the surface until a stunning finale brings everything to the forefront with dazzling flourishes. It’s Anderson in top form, submerging us into his world with the lilt of his dialogue and quirks of his characters, as their flaws and strengths intermingle and wash over us. Anderson seduces us with his hazy cinematography, as soft sunlight parses in through the windows onto the House of Woodcock’s spotless walls. It’s as if the movie takes place within a false awakening – those dreams where you imagine waking up, and realize something’s wrong when everything is bright, heightened, and altogether destructible. Jonny Greenwood’s score straddles the line between lush instrumentation and sharp stabs of discomfort. Like the script, it takes a chaste surface and dares us to piece together the more eccentric notions of how Alma desires to tame Reynolds’ harsh proclivities. Anderson’s direction renders the film as inviting as can be from the outset, but whips us into a deliberate rhythm that grows with exponential speed by the third act. Through meticulous set design and a ravishing visual palette, dynamite performances are brought to life in a world covered in glamour, but still one with room for these complex entities. It’s a wild examination of interrupted and recalibrated interpersonal relationships, concealed under the cover of a lavish costume drama.

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