American director Paul Thomas Anderson's latest masterpiece is a bit of a tough watch. For all its beauty and nuanced performances, it's a perplexing study of relationships - perverse, elegant, occasionally humorous, emotionally cold. And utterly compelling.
Set in the mid-1950s London, Phantom Thread tells the story of immaculately groomed, middle-aged British fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Lewis), who with sister Cyril (Manville) runs The House of Woodcock, dressing a who's-who of European royalty, movie stars and socialites.
A confirmed bachelor and serial womaniser, Reynolds has relationships with women for inspiration and companionship, then leaves his sister to dismiss them when he's no longer interested.
That's until he meets Alma (Krieps) in a country restaurant, an alluring young waitress with a slight accent (we never learn where she is from). It's not long before Alma is installed at Reynolds' London townhouse as his muse, mannequin and lover.
Unlike his previous girlfriends Alma realises she's powerless in their relationship, and has no desire to be treated as on object and discarded by a narcissist unable to have a loving relationship. It's at this point that Phantom Thread gets interesting - and a little kooky.
In a romantic suspense thriller worthy of Hitchcock, Anderson pushes his characters to their limits, gently at first and then to extremes. The result makes for a twisted and far-fetched ending that will leave some scratching their heads.
The actors deliver beautifully in what is a chilling film - creating complex characters who take the entire film to get our heads around, and even then leave us wondering whether we knew them at all. Lewis deserves his Oscar nomination for what is believed to be his last on-screen performance (he did look a bit weary); and Krieps is a talent to watch.
As you'd expect from Anderson, Phantom Thread is a beautifully shot (by Anderson himself) and thoughtful film - a period piece with a timeless story.
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps
Paul Thomas Anderson
M (Offensive language)
An emotionally cold and yet intriguing relationship drama.