While there are movies out there unserious about filmmaking, there are some rare gems like the extraordinary Phantom Thread movie that is the exact opposite. There is so much going on in each frame of the flick that it leaves you extremely mesmerized.
While Phantom Thread is a movie that is bedecked by none other than the acting polymath Daniel Day-Lewis himself, he is guided none other than the colossal vision of Paul Thomas Anderson. Together these guys recreate the magic of There Will Be Blood again.
The Deadly Combo
The combination is deadly, you know it. They prove yet again why they are so revered not only in the industry but all across the globe. For a sleepless man who is a master at getting into the skin of his characters, who fills meaning into the profession of acting, sometimes it becomes hard to tell Daniel Day-Lewis apart from his characters.
Paul Thomas Anderson is a great director himself. He knows how well to leverage a dedicated actor like Daniel. It is filmmaking at its best whenever you see these two weave magic onscreen. Phantom Thread movie uses this golden opportunity properly.
Phantom Thread movie leaves you with a lot of questions. It is quite good frankly, because a good movie should make you think, and that’s what it does.
I am sure doubts still linger in your head, and you want a proper closure for all those hard to grasp bits. I hope to settle some of the daunting questions you might be left with after watching the flick. First, we will dive headfirst into the plot of Phantom Thread movie and try to figure it all out therefrom.
The Plot and Theme of Phantom Thread Movie (Spoilers)
The story of Phantom Thread movie dives into the head of a fastidious man who is peerless in his profession. A dressmaker he is who makes immaculate dresses that pass under his scanner in painstaking detail. He is a master at what he does as Daniel makes his character Reynolds Woodcock a reality.
For a great man to fall in love, as Gatsby had often reiterated (only if you keep re-reading) it has rarely ended well. With that Paul introduces a hint of love in the form of Alma played by Vicky Krieps who happens perchance to him when he least expected it. That’s how love happens when you overlook the reality that tacks along.
A house that doesn’t change is a dead house.
Alma walks into his life as an object of admiration. She wishes to be more but ends up becoming a plaything of an unfeeling monster of a man (monster is a relative term) who places his work well above everything else. And he has never been in love before. His unadulterated love for his work is evident by his success. He is well above it. But like all mortals on earth, he becomes smitten by one of his toys.
For the hungry boy, my name is Alma.
Unfortunately for him, it is a breathing toy who expects more of him. She is a person who walks in with her own dreams, clouding his vision with attention.
Alma can’t be overpowered because she has a voice of her own, a defiant brat when she’s mad. She tries to adjust to this newly found life of hers, but the poor thing could only take so much. You realize there’s nothing wrong with her. But that’s what marriage is – people trying to fit into one common tiny blanket together.
But for Reynolds, it is never about what others think of his dresses. It is about him, and only him. It makes him feel complete when he is able to produce a timeless piece.
Alma: Mrs. Vaughn is satisfied with the dress.
Reynolds: No one gives a tinker’s fucking curse about Mrs. Vaughn’s satisfaction.
Love is Poison
With the advent of Alma in the life of Reynolds, things change.
Her arrival has cast a very long shadow.
For the better part, we see Alma being submissive trying to fit in the life of Woodcock. But then she begins to realize how beastly Reynolds is and decides to tame him. Wanting to think like him for a second makes her realize why he does what he does. It is evident when together they force a dress out from a client. They are literally on the same page. But like every relationship, it is just a quality that matches and stands out contrasting to all the things that don’t.
Maybe he is the most demanding man.
It is hard for her to scooch herself in his air when he wishes things to be his way, unbothered and unfazed. That’s when the defiance happens as she finds some poisonous mushrooms and deliberately makes him ill. She wishes to take care of him, to pamper him wanting him to be completely his. Craving for possession – a misadventure of a relationship. Somehow her wanting that is just too, given the way Reynolds behaves even when she is around. It doesn’t change him a bit which is madding.
Is this an ambush? Are you sent here to ruin my evening? And possibly my entire life?
With that poison his work suffers as he falls to the ground, spoiling the dress he had worked so hard on. The absurdity lies in the part when you witness the callousness his sister or his coworkers depict for him when they are more worried about the dress than his well-being.
Reynolds life was devoid of love, and that’s why Alma was so keen on bringing warmth to him. His life was akin to a robot and you could see any minor interference dealing with Alma trying to make things better made him madder.
The Game of Power
Reynolds was used to having things a certain way, and anything that messed with it broke his trance.
The tea is going out. The interruption is staying right here with me.
With Alma around it was becoming difficult for him to cope with his profession. You know when you weaken a person, make him vulnerable you see their true colors. With him poisoned on the bed, he calls Alma his mother when she was taking care of him. The Phantom reflects for a split second making him feel at home.
Are you here? Are you always here? I miss you. I think about you all the time. I hear your voice say my name when I dream and when I wake up, there are tears streaming down my face.
Mother is the first thing you remember when you are in trouble when you are really down. Alma’s presence rekindles that love and care he felt when he was around his mother. With Alma to the rescue, he feels home, although what he does not approve of was the inconvenience when she bothered the demeanour he preferred.
I have given him what he desires most in return. Every piece of me.
Marriage and What Comes After
That feeling of home, made Reynolds realize that he could not survive without Alma. They marry and suddenly Alma becomes the boss of his life. She does all those things that bother him, makes all those noises on the dining table, doing all the things the way she pleased. They fight and they get along. That’s what relationship is – A symphony that constantly resonates and dissonates.
There is an air of quiet death in this house. I don’t like the way it smells.
Reynolds suddenly loses his power. The transfer of control happens. Her presence pokes him all the time as he fails to carry on the way he wishes to. The vision blemishes. But now he is left with no choice but to deal with it. But since he is a child at heart, he doesn’t know how to.
One day he goes to complain about how he has become this demon he did not expect to turn into.
I do not like to be turned away from.
You could tell even Cyril (Leslie Manville) is tired of his puerile behavior, when she lets Alma eavesdrop on him complaining about her. It is about time that he grows up is what Cyril, his sister, has been thinking all along as well.
She’s getting fat sitting around waiting for you to fall in love with her again.
But that bitching felt like the last straw to Alma as she once again resorts to poison.
Phantom Thread Movie Ending Explained
The final poison scene might have baffled a lot of viewers because it fizzles so many thoughts in your head.
- A. you can see what’s going on.
- B. You can hear their thoughts as well.
Whilst Alma prepares a poisoned omelet for Reynolds to eat, you can clearly see Reynolds well aware of it. He has realized that the first time he had been sick, it was Alma’s doing.
You are not cursed. You are loved by me.
There is an obvious tension in the air as Woodcock knowingly gulps the omelet to a waiting Alma.
It is all poetic and symbolic too – “I know that falling in love will kill me, but I will do it anyway.”
I will explain further. Reynold has experienced that low time before when he was in his bed resigned and powerless. But that was also the time when he was close to his truer self. When he had witnessed his mother – a feeling of being himself, and not under the skin of some distant virtuoso. Alma was the girl who made him visit that transcendence. Though how painful it was for him, it was also quite relieving and elevating.
Reynolds could not be what he aspired to be when he was on his sick bed, but he was at least surrounded by love. It was relaxing and soothing as there was someone he loved, to take care of him. It wiped out the furrows he had on his brows for a while and that was something he secretly admired.
As Alma looked on, she seemed to be offering him a choice in the form of a poisoned omelet. Take it or leave it as if bluntly pointing out – “You either take my love or be deprived.” Love being love always wins as we see Reynolds deliberately putting a mouthful in and then subduing in her lap.
Kiss me, my girl, before I am sick.
Why Alma Didn’t Walk Away
You must be wondering why Alma did not just walk out of his life. While there are tons of instances all around us of why people are unable to move on from something, you can only relate to Alma’s mindset by all the things she says:
Reynolds has made my dreams come true.
When Alma had first set his eyes on him, she fell in love with him. But she came to face this unbreakable guy that was different from the rest. How did he manage to live such a reputable renowned life?
Alma: Why are you not married?
Reynolds: I make dresses.
Alma: You cannot be married when you make dresses?
Reynolds: I am certain I was never meant to marry. I am a confirmed bachelor. I am incurable.
She took that up as a challenge, to cure him of his illness. Forcing him into marriage, to open his arms wider for people to walk right in. Something nobody could do, a thing next to impossible. Life is a challenge, for Alma Reynolds became her life.
Presence of the Challenge
To be in love with him makes life no great mystery.
The presence of Reynolds in her life makes her feel out of the world. To break him as to find a place in his heart ends up becoming her only goal.
Alma puts everything she wishes of him in her final words when she poisons him:
I want you flat on your back. Helpless, tender, open with only me to help. And then I want you strong again. You’re not going to die. You might wish you’re going to die, but you’re not going to. You need to settle down a little.
The final line is the crux of the whole Phantom Thread movie. She has been trying to make him relax to lose that uptight facade that he has been donning all his life. It is repulsive to her, and she wishes to make him human again.
You can order Phantom Thread Movie here:
The Secret Behind the Name Phantom Thread
Probably the one question that might be bothering you would also be the title. Why Phantom Thread? What’s the significance that hides inside this vague moniker?
For a man to be like Reynolds Woodcock, you have to dangerously close to insanity. Leading a life he had sewn into his threads, Woodcock had committed himself wholly to a profession that’s simply unworldly to him.
For Reynolds, it is important to hide messages in the dresses he makes that are supposedly made for phantoms to read. It is like an artist signing his work off with a sigil for people in the posterity to find. A old habit that ends up becoming his muse.
You can sew almost anything into the canvas of a coat.
In a way, Reynolds depicts that it is meant for the ‘ghosts’ of time to read. Who is the ghost here? You guessed right, his mother whose breathing image we see in a fleeting shot during the time he was sick.
It’s comforting to think the dead are watching over the living. I don’t find that spooky at all.
Every person needs validation. So is the case with a genius like Woodcock. There is this profound veneration he holds for his immaculate creations but as a sign of validation, he wishes them to be seen by his mother. Like a child who seeks validation for things he paints from his mother, Reynolds acts on similar lines. He wishes his creation to be timeless, to be seen by her dead mother and as a reverence, he pays tribute to her.
After the final scene, you see it is by being closer to death that this artist becomes his better self – this humble love beseeching being who appreciates life. Every great man is vulnerable. One could only paint their true colors when they are down on their knees. Alma achieves that by poisoning him.
The Final Verdict of Phantom Thread Movie
Phantom Thread movie is hands down fantastic. The detailing in the flick would simply blow you away. This is how movies should be made. You pay attention to any aspect of Phantom Thread movie, be it be the dresses, the lighting that complements the cinematography, the outstanding screenplay or the acting of the cast, it is all extremely well done. Understand it well and you might enjoy it even more.
You can read our other movie analyses too.