Writer/Director Paul Thomas Anderson digresses from the lovey-dovey mainstream representation of romance and proffers a most abstract version of love foiled in the golden fabric of Phantom Thread. What disentangles this fibrous artwork enfolding the darker side of love is the cinematic genius of Daniel Day-Lewis playing the highbrow couturier "Reynolds Woodcock". After working for Anderson in "There Will Be Blood", Day-Lewis seems to have been his obvious choice to play the obstinate dressmaker. A brilliant touch is the casting of Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville in supporting roles. Both the actresses, in keeping up shoulder to shoulder with the leading actor, add their own feminine finesse to the picture with distinctive vividness.
Kudos to the director again for the clever cinematography. The scenes in vibrant natural colours appear as ready-to-be-framed photographs as they capture the stillness of the intricate routine of a high-end dressmaker of the 1950s. Reynolds Woodcock's life is a clockwork of habits (that include stitching little notes into dress linings which he believes shall undo curses and superstitions) perfected over time. The mansion which he shares with his unmarried sister Cyril (Manville) also serves as his design house. While the champion designer focuses solely on his creations hugely sought after by the wealthy and well-known of London's high society, his observant sister looks after the administrative part of the business and controls the choreographed schedules of her brother.
Upon the success of his latest creation, Woodcock recedes to the countryside where his imagination is fired by a waitress named Alma (Krieps) who he meets at a local restaurant. As the two fall in love with each other, their hold on their personal lives is thinned to a thread. Alma's attempts to dissect into the anatomy of Woodcock's daily routine, after he brings her to London, are met by a strong-willed person whose obsession with his craft supersedes everything else, while her own life is reduced to an all surrendering muse at the hands of a controlling and guarded Woodcock.
The veteran actor is infuriating as the indomitable master to his muse. At the same time, he is endearing as the subservient at the hands of the woman who adheres to the only way she discovers of drawing him to herself, even if it pushes him to the brink of his life. But it would be unwise to expect anything lesser from Day-Lewis who moulds himself impeccably as always into the character that defines the end of his stellar career as an actor. His command over voice as Woodcock and superb dialogue delivery infused with moments of brooding silence where his expressions outdo dialogues are at par with his penultimate role as Lincoln. It is hard to fathom not seeing the versatile Daniel Day-Lewis on-screen any more, yet here he says adios to his acting career with another unforgettable role.
Vicky Krieps is scintillating as the passionate, angry and remorseless lover. She is captivating as the country girl craving for the undivided attention of her beloved, holding on to the phantom thread that connects them yet threatens to rip apart all that they hold dear. Lesley Manville perfects the ever vigilant Cyril, whose initial scepticism develops into trust and respect for Alma.
The melancholic and at times aggressive soundtrack by Jonny Greenwood handsomely enfold the silky flow of the film. Phantom Thread is paced by its American director like a French drama laid upon an English foundation, never letting go of the viewers' attention; its storyline and ending open to them for interpretations of their own. Isn't that what an abstract painting seeks to achieve, its beauty open to disparate perceptions of the beholders.