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Phantom Thread


Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville, Gina McKee, Brian Gleeson

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

This is a strange movie whose characters' motivations are never entirely clear. It is elegant, though, in keeping with its principal character.

Day-Lewis, in what he says will be his last film role, plays Reynolds Woodcock, a fastidious and difficult dressmaker who designs clothes for the wealthy. Although he would appear to be gay, Reynolds is apparently at least bisexual, as he has a series of girls - ideal models - at the palatial home which is also his place of work, and which he shares with his sister Cyril (a taut and tight-lipped Manville).

On a short break, he encounters Alma (Luxembourg-born Krieps), a waitress of indeterminate European origin, who catches Reynolds' eye and calls him Mr Smiley. He takes her into his home, but their budding relationship is a thing of ups and downs, not helped by Cyril's attitudes.

Ultimately, Alma feels sidelined by Reynolds' work, and here the scenario develops along slightly more conventional lines. When Alma makes Reynolds sick by feeding him poisonous mushrooms, it isn't apparent whether she wants to kill him, or look after and dominate him. Later scenes may make this plainer, but you will have to make up your own mind.

Day-Lewis does (uncharacteristically) struggle a bit with his annoying character, and it's the experienced Krieps (she's 32 but looks much younger) who provides the focus of the film with her understandably enigmatic performance. Sumptuously photographed, as befits the dresses.

David Quinlan

USA 2017. UK Distributor: Universal. Technicolor/FotoKem.
130 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 28 Jan 2018