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Film / Phantom Thread

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"Whatever you're going to do, do it carefully."
Alma Elson to Reynolds Woodcock

Phantom Thread is a 2017 drama film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, starring Daniel Day-Lewis (in what is his final role before retirement), Lesley Manville, and Vicky Krieps.

The film is an exploration of mid-20th-century fashion. Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Manville) run the prestigious Woodcock fashion house, dressing royalty, heiresses, and other members of high society. Women come and go through Reynolds' life, put off by his Control Freak nature. However, a relationship with a waitress named Alma (Krieps) throws his carefully controlled life out of order.

In addition to writing and directing the film, Anderson also served as cinematographer for the first time.


  • A-Cup Angst: Reynolds bluntly tells Alma, "You have no breasts" while measuring her. She apologizes, but he assures her, "It's my job to give you some."
  • All Love Is Unrequited: It is implied that Dr. Hardy is attracted to Alma. Although he seems to genuinely respect and pay attention to to her, Alma only has eyes for Reynolds.
  • Babies Ever After: At the very least, Alma is hoping for this at the end.
  • Berserk Button: Do not use the word "chic" around Reynolds. See Cluster F-Bomb.
  • Big Eater: Reynolds is frequently shown either eating or when he meets Alma, ordering excessive amounts of food. It's implied that his appetite is directly correlated to his mood, since when he is absorbed in his work he seems to want nothing to do with food or even tea, and is repulsed by the mere act of buttering toast in his presence.
  • Call-Back: Early in the film, Reynolds refuses to open the door for Alma, saying that he's working — only for Cyril to sail through the door unchallenged and close it in Alma's face. Later in the film, Alma shuts the door to Reynolds's sick room in Cyril's face, symbolizing the shifting power dynamics.
  • Catchphrase: Cyril's "Let me..." before she repeats or rephrases something in plainer and more direct terms.
  • Central Theme
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Reynolds goes into a flurry of dropping F-bombs when the word "chic" is used to describe current fashion.
    Reynolds Woodcock: Chic? Oh, don't you start using that filthy little word, Chic! Whoever invented that ought to be spanked in public. I don't... I don't even know what that word means! What is that word? Fucking chic! They should be hung, drawn, and quartered. Fucking chic.
  • Control Freak: Reynolds. He's so exacting in what he wants that relationships are short-lived and provides the crux of the conflict in the movie. He eventually learns to get over it.
  • Costume Porn: Gorgeous 1950's haute couture galore. It paid off with the Oscar for Best Costume Design.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Downplayed: While Alma poisoning Reynolds would play out quite differently were the genders reversed, it is still treated as messed up in the film.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Reynolds and Alma eventually have a mutually beneficial relationship, with Alma even imagining a hopeful future.
  • Fatal Flaw: Reynolds has realistic flaws for an artist. He is obsessive, a visionary, and a perfectionist.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Reynolds proposes to Alma after she nurses him back to health. The second time, he's fully aware that she's poisoning him and indicates that he's going to allow it because he likes it when she takes care of him.
  • Food Porn: Haute cuisine is especially prominent in the movie as well. It even goes beyond it visually, as even sound effects for food and drink are amped up to emphasizes every little bite, slurp and crunch.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Reynolds and Cyril, respectively. While Reynolds is the creative, temperamental half with a long list of eccentricities, Cyril is the financial half, and is frequently shown to be the one who has to keep him on a leash and do things for him like breaking up with women.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Reynolds' sister is named Cyril, which is typically a masculine name.
  • Golddigger: Implied with the Countess and her fiance, but we never see them after the wedding, so nothing comes of it.
  • How We Got Here: The framing device is Alma recounting the events of the movie to Dr. Hardy after poisoning Reynolds for the second time.
  • Imagine Spot: After Reynolds finally gives in to her requests about the relationship, Alma imagines the two of them having a child, along with a more substantial role for her at the fashion house.
  • Lady Drunk: Barbara Rose, who complains about how ugly she looks even in a Woodcock dress, then passes out drunk at a party while wearing it.
  • Love Epiphany: Reynolds seems to have this about Alma when she get just as outraged as him over a customer's disreputable behavior while wearing one of his dresses, if not moreso. If anything, it's she who gets him riled up.
  • Manchild: Reynolds is a more downplayed example. While extremely civil and gentlemanly, he's utterly stunted emotionally, such as having Cyril break up relationships for him, is extremely possessive and overly mercurial and has frequent lamentations for his mother. At the end, his relationship with Alma is eerily similar to the one a mother has with a child.
  • Married to the Job: Reynolds. Until the ending.
  • The Masochism Tango: Downplayed but present between Reynolds and Alma. Once he realizes that she's been poisoning him to knock his pride down a beg or two when he's starting to become an asshole again, he goes along with being poisoned by her.
  • May–December Romance: Between Reynolds and Alma (Daniel Day-Lewis is 27 years Vicky Krieps' senior). The Countess he designs a wedding dress for appears to be slightly older than her husband also.
  • Meaningful Name: Alma is Latin for "Nourishment", as shown whenever she calls him a "hungry boy", along with providing a more emotional kind of nourishment. When she poisons him, the name goes from meaningful to downright ironic—then comes back around to meaningful again when it's revealed that he likes it.
  • Mushroom Samba: While lying in his bed deliriously sick, Reynolds imagines his mother standing on the opposite side of the room wearing her wedding dress - the first dress Reynolds ever made.
  • New Year Has Come: Alma and Reynolds have a confrontation when he insists on remaining in the hotel room to work, refusing to dance at the New Year's party with Alma.
  • No Antagonist
  • The Nose Knows: When Cyril first meets Alma, the former immediately notices her perfume (Sandalwood and Rosewater) and deduces they had fish by noticing she also smells like sherry and lemon juice.
  • Power Dynamics Kink: When Alma learns to poison Reynolds so she can make him well again and put him in his place (because Weakness Turns Her On), both Reynolds and Alma seem to develop a mutual sexual attraction to Alma (non sexually) taking control.
  • Redhead In Green: A woman Reynolds designs a dress for.
  • Right Behind Me: Shortly after marrying Alma, Reynolds complains to Cyril that she's disrupted his life. Sure enough, Alma appears in the doorway. Inverted in that it's SHE who's embarrassed, not him.
  • Serious Business: Do not do socially embarrassing things—like, say, drinking too much at a party and passing out at the table—while wearing a Woodcock dress.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The shot of Reynolds looking at Alma through a peephole during the fashion show is one to Psycho.
    • Shots of Reynolds' car zooming through the English countryside look like a nod to A Clockwork Orange.
  • A Side Order of Romance: Reynolds meets Alma when she takes his breakfast order and asks her out when she delivers the food. Feeding him remains a major element of their relationship after they become lovers, whether she's mothering him, making romantic gestures, or poisoning him to keep him dependent on her.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Frequently among Reynolds, Alma and Cyril.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Alma puts bits of a poisonous mushroom in his tea in order to have Reynolds at her mercy. The second time she does this with an omelette, he goes along with it.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: While Alma is hardly "wild", she's certainly less high-strung than Reynolds.
  • Uptown Girl: Gender-inverted: Reynolds is already a well established and wealthy dressmaker by the time he meets Alma, an immigrant waitress.
  • Wham Line: "Kiss me, my girl, before I'm sick."