London-born actor Daniel Day-Lewis wears success like an impeccably tailored suit.
He is the most feted male performer of any generation in terms of Oscars glory in a leading role with three golden statuettes on the mantelpiece for transformative performances in My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood and Lincoln.
Day-Lewis’s willingness to suffer for his art and immerse himself in the day-to-day toil of his characters is the stuff of feverishly shared legend.
He remained in a wheelchair during filming of My Left Foot, refusing to break character even to feed himself. He endured physical pain in bruising on-screen bouts in The Boxer and denied himself sustenance and sleep to convincingly portray an exhausted Gerry Conlon in In The Name Of The Father.
Day-Lewis delivers his final screen performance before self-imposed retirement as a perfectionist dressmaker in Paul Thomas Anderson’s artfully stitched drama, which is set in the salons of 1950s London.
It is another flawless embodiment of the emotionally crippled male psyche, deliciously complicated by an ambiguous sexuality and a softly-spoken fastidiousness that doesn’t extend to personal relationships… except for an uncomfortably close bond to a ferocious, purse-lipped sister, played with scorching intensity by Lesley Manville.
They are a formidable double act and you genuinely fear for the sanity of anyone who naively strays into the siblings’ tortuous web.
The balance of power appears to be weighted in favour of the fairer sex.
“Don’t pick a fight with me, you certainly won’t come out alive,” threatens the sister during one contretemps. “I’ll go right through you and it’ll be you who ends up on the floor. Understood?”
Loud and clear.
Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) is the creative dynamo of a luxury fashion house, which regularly welcomes the upper echelons of society including Countess Henrietta Harding (Gina McKee) and Belgian bride-to-be, Princess Mona Braganza (Lujza Richter).
His sister Cyril (Manville) presides over the seamstresses and also manages her brother’s romantic vacillations, ridding the household of his bothersome companion, Johanna (Camilla Rutherford).
During a seaside break between commissions, “confirmed bachelor” Reynolds embarks on a whirlwind affair with sweet-natured waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps).
“I feel as if I’ve been looking for you for a very long time,” he coos to his new muse.
Alma’s swift introduction to Reynolds’s life in the capital puts her on a collision course with Cyril and her lover’s impossibly demanding nature.
Phantom Thread is a slow-burning study of competing obsessions.
“Whatever you do, do it carefully,” Alma tells Reynolds during a clifftop stroll and writer-director Anderson heeds his heroine’s words, observing his superlative cast in long, unhurried takes as they trade verbal blows.
Krieps has the least showy role of the central trio but holds her own against the imperious tag team of Day-Lewis and Manville.
Two’s toxic company, three’s a potentially murderous crowd.