Review: ‘Phantom Thread’ proves to be an elegant masterpiece

Story by Sydney Wagner / Contributing Writer

On its surface, the Oscar-nominated “Phantom Thread” is a film about beautiful people in beautiful clothes. What unfolds, however, is a thrilling story of the relationships that influence and shape these characters as they go out into the world each day.

The film is set in 1950s London and Reynolds Woodcock, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, has created his perfect world within the studio walls that are home to his fashion brand, House of Woodcock. The designer has perfected his routine down to every minute detail, from the way he cuffs his socks in the mornings to the set of lavender pajamas he changes into each evening. 

At the very least, “Phantom Thread” is two hours and 10 minutes of pure elegance. Moviegoers who come for the fashion will not be disappointed by scenes of Woodcock casually discussing an exquisite lace overlay and heiresses making grand entrances in one-of-a-kind gowns brought to life by the designer and his team. While the rich visuals may be what initially draw the audience in, the smooth twists and turns of the story are sure to keep the audience captivated. Beyond the 25-inch waists and Dior-inspired skirts of the 1950s, “Phantom Thread” revolves around those who create clothes and those who dream about creating clothes alike. It shows how one’s past relationships can shape or even haunt ones to come. 

Receiving an Oscar nomination for his lead performance, Daniel Day-Lewis plays a character who not only holds himself to high standards but also the people he’s surrounded by. He simply has no use for the ones who threaten to waste his precious time — after all, there are measurements to be taken and socialites to be dressed. Behind the scenes of the British fashion house is the woman who truly runs the show: Woodcock’s sister, Cyril. Lesley Manville plays the sharp-tongued businesswoman and snagged a supporting actress nomination at this year’s Oscars for the worthy performance.

Many of the film’s best scenes come from the bickering brother-sister duo who serve one-liners like only Brits can. These scenes give the audience a second to breathe before the story continues deeper into the characters’ twisted relationships. One standout moment comes from Day-Lewis when Woodcock goes on one of his many tangents, this time explaining his disgust for the word “chic.” But instead of being whipped around from scene to scene at breakneck speed, the audience is swept along, never losing touch with the story’s overarching sense of elegance. 

Much of this elegance is thanks to the film’s hauntingly beautiful music composed by Jonny Greenwood, lead guitarist of Radiohead. Consistent throughout the entire film, orchestra strings toy with emotions and send chills down the spine one minute and fill the chest with existential dread the next. “Phantom Thread” is a film that examines a man’s meticulously crafted world, giving a different perspective of power and control in relationships without losing its grace and elegance for a second.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Tayhlor Stephenson, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

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