Daniel Day-Lewis and America’s Greatest Living Director™ Paul Thomas Anderson join considerable forces in Phantom Thread. 

We're in 1950s London. Reynolds Woodcock (DDL) is one of the capital’s most in-demand dressmakers, working with his sister Cyril to clothe the royal, the rich and the beautiful. Obsessed with his craft, he remains a confirmed bachelor until he meets his muse, Alma. 

Infiltrated by love, his orderly life begins to come apart at the seams.    

Key themes:

Fashion

This film is a feast of frocks – think The Devil Wears Prada with more frills. In one scene Reynolds lovingly unwraps a sheet of 16th century Flemish lace, in another he’s vigorously polishing his shoes. Whether he’s huddled over a mannequin with a mouthful of pins or admiring his work on Alma, the character is fanatical about couture. 

Relationships

Alma might be the romantic lead, but Reynolds’ sister Cybil (Lesley Manville) is his business partner and confidante. One of the most captivating scenes revolves around Cybil quietly and powerfully annihilating Reynolds when he attempts to bully her over tea. There are no raised voices, no eye contact – she just sips her drink and daintily tears shreds from his ego. 

Taste

Taste and wealth, class and poverty weave together in the scene where Reynolds dismissively suggests that Alma - who was a waitress when they met - has no taste. When she argues and refuses to let him take the last word, he erupts with frustration.  

Obsession 

When the first flush of romance fades, Reynolds becomes dismissive, irritable and controlling of Alma. In this scene where she brings him a cup of tea unbidden, he scolds her for interrupting even as she takes the tea away and leaves him to his work. 

“The tea is going out, the interruption is staying right here with me”

 

Power and control

ALMA: “We need to go dancing, so what are you going to do about it?”

REYNOLDS: “I’m going to stay right here and I’m going to work.”

Alma defies Reynolds by going dancing on New year’s Eve without him. He tries and fails to focus on his work, then seeks her out. He watches her singing Auld Lang Syne with someone wearing a gorilla mask. The scene is chaotic, uncontrolled unrefined, he sneers at the cheap costumes and gaudy balloons. He find Alma and without a word takes her by the wrist and takes her away.  

Key scenes:

Confirmed Batchelor 

Alma delicately interrogates Reynolds about his romantic history.  

You Found Me

Away from the glamour and opulence of London, the couple retreat to the countryside. The openness of the mountains, the sea and the skyline enable a new openness between them in this intimate scene. 

The story of a power struggle in a relationship and engrossing romantic tension, bathed in luxury surroundings. How will you interpret this movie for the Focus Features creative brief?

Check out the full brief from Focus Features, here.

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