Phantom Thread: Daniel Day-Lewis’ Farewell

Daniel Day-Lewis makes his last role before retirement memorable

Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the most accomplished actors of his generation. He has won three best actor Academy Awards, two Golden Globes, and acclaim for incredible performances in Last of the Mohicans, Lincoln, and There Will Be Blood, among others. If Phantom Thread is indeed his last film, then it is a different film for him to star in and an excellent closing note on his career.

Day-Lewis plays a talented fashion designer named Reynolds Woodcock in 1950’s London. And he is absolutely the best part of the movie. His character is demanding, exact, precise, extraordinarily talented, and a joy to watch. His scenes at work are fun because you see someone doing what he’s best at and enjoys most. The personal scenes involving his love interest and the memory of his mother are excellent because they allow the viewer to see behind a well crafted curtain. And the substance behind the curtain is also interesting to watch. Day-Lewis shows off his range and versatility as an actor in this role and he is the star of this show. His nomination for Best Actor at the Oscars is completely deserved. I won’t be shocked if he wins his record fourth award.

While Day-Lewis is the best part, the rest of the movie is excellent as well. Paul Thomas Anderson directs this film and he does a great job. The cinematography is light and inviting, making this a wonderfully pleasant film to look at. It’s paced well and unfolds its story with good timing and compelling turns. It’s light and enjoyable while still offering an engaging story. It’s a great directing job by Anderson and quite a shame that he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar.

The other performances are also excellent. Lesley Manville plays Cyril, Woodcock’s sister, and she is delightful. She provides a stark contrast to Day-Lewis and has excellent comedic moments. Vickey Kreips plays Alma, Woodcock’s love interest. She has a wonderfully compelling arc and gives charm and spunk to the film. She is the only non-British character in the film and she contrasts high British society with a down to earth and likable persona that is a pleasure to watch. There are some unusual aspects to the romance that drives the film, but it works well enough.

The other excellent piece of this movie is the soundtrack. Jonny Greenwood composed the music. Non-movie fans may recognize him as the lead guitarist and keyboardist of alternative band Radiohead. This soundtrack is a different style than he normally writes, but it works beautifully. The soundtrack is serene, piano driven, and compliments the story marvelously. The music on it’s own gives a sense of peace and pleasantness that can brighten anyone’s day. Greenwood was nominated for the Best Soundtrack Oscar and I won’t be surprised if he wins. He’s already won awards from a variety of critic associations and smaller award shows for this job.

So would I recommend seeing this? Yes. But know that this isn’t a typical Daniel Day-Lewis film. The 60 year old Kensington native shines, but this is not a high tension drama. This is a slow burn driven by strong characters that you become personally invested in. The technicals provide a pleasant viewing experience and a worthwhile watch if you want something different from high stress action or drama flicks. It is a worthy film for Daniel Day-Lewis to go out on.