Phantom Thread ★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Anderson mounts narratives without a premise, so that they unfold as overviews, with a sweep, often structured around more or less preposterous set-pieces that threaten to hold everything together (the quiz show in Magnolia, the exploding derrick in There Will Be Blood); scenes arrive unprompted and many end via oddly-timed dissolves or pre-emptive shifts in sound. They sort of drift: to music. Greenwood's score, which may well be wonderful in itself, tends to stifle the would-be drama here; as if Anderson is terrified of his responsibilities as a lone storyteller, and so has enlisted another artist to share the burden.

It's atonal and suitably unpredictable, sure (that immediate switch from the wedding-high to the irksome honeymoon table etiquette!), but for heaven's sake give these world-great actors space in which to connect on their own. Because when they do it's electric; and silent. Alma's simultaneously assertive and pathetic neediness, Woodcock's desire to be pampered (Day-Lewis is a borderline walking avatar of the late 2010s campus-bound safe-zone Tumblr-left, passive-aggressive defence mechanisms and all)... It's play-acting: a kind of ghoulish contemporary romance telegraphed to something resembling 1950s England (my favourite scene, which being in a Paul Thomas Anderson film isn't really a scene at all, is when Woodcock stops by the country-lane petrol station en route to the coast).

If Phantom Thread has a set-piece, it's maybe that race against time to rescue a royal wedding dress ruined by Woodcock's poison-induced collapse. Manville, miked up, telling each cluster of seamstresses that they're going to have to work through the night while the camera stays firm in her absence—on Krieps: it only moves when she does.