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Phantom Thread

‘Phantom Thread’ is the movie that actor Daniel Day-Lewis has grandly announced as being his final acting role. Whether that’s true remains to be seen but for now he delivers another excellent performance. That isn’t too difficult due to the finely written script by writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson. His work, including ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘There will be Blood’, have startled audiences. ‘Phantom Thread’ should be no different. With its exploration of a fashion house in the 1950’s, it is another engrossing production from a gifted story-teller.

London dressmakers Reynolds (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Leslie Manville) have a distinctive style popular with royalty, stars and high society. Their fashion house is continually busy with romance being a constant source of pleasure for Reynolds. Thinking he will forever remain a bachelor, he is surprised when he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps). Becoming his muse and lover, Alma’s entrancing allure affect Reynolds structured life in ways he could never have contemplated.

Although his work demands a lot of viewers, Paul Thomas Anderson knows how to capture attention. He does this with ease in ‘Phantom Thread’ due to a strong script and powerful performances. Day Lewis successfully inhabits Reynolds’ arrogant, needy and peculiar manner. Perhaps that’s why he was cast as Day Lewis creates a complete character full of genuine human foibles. He understands the many layers of the dense script with Anderson taking his time to tell the intricate tale.

‘Phantom Thread’ comes into its own with exquisite production design and elegant score. It perfectly encapsulates the aloof 1950’s surrounds in Reynolds’ world. The superb rendering of the era allows you to fully invest in the story even if it occasionally drags. Anderson continues his bad habit of over-emphasising the emotional turmoil of his characters that dilutes the story’s impact. His drawing out of strong performances and fantastic attention to detail are first class and evidence of a film-maker taking care in crafting something unique.

If ‘Phantom Thread’ is truly the final coda in Daniel Day-Lewis’ career, then he definitely has gone out on top. Conjuring a memorable persona, his skills will be missed. Thankfully Paul Thomas Anderson has no plans to retire with his film-making style always intriguing and refusing to settle for anything less than cinematic perfection.

Rating out of 10: 7

I, Tonya

One of the worst human traits is envy. Envy at what others have is a notion that has started life-long feuds, wars and death. It’s not a likeable emotion to have but sadly rules certain people’s lives until their death. ‘I, Tonya’ explores how envy can go spectacularly wrong. Based on true events which made world headlines, it’s a cautionary tale in envy getting out of control. It’s a well-made film with performances highlighting the pitfalls of envy in all its ugliness.

Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) is a figure skater who has participated in the sport her whole life. Aiming for Olympic medals and being the best in her field, her ambition knows no limits. Married to Jeff (Sebastian Stan), Tonya has long tried to move from under the shadow of her controlling mother Fay (Allison Janney). When Tonya’s fiercest skating rival Nancy Kerrigan looks set to win an important contest those closest to Tonya take it upon themselves to change the outcome. Their actions unleash hell upon Tonya’s life with scandal and deception overtaking her stormy life.

‘I, Tonya’ is often unbearable viewing due to its vile, grotesque characters. That’s what makes is so compelling with the trashy, soap opera style narrative demanding attention from the first frame. ‘I, Tonya’ doesn’t shy away from the fact that it depicts a group of white trash people desperate to achieve anything at any cost. Whether it’s by deception, violence and the worshipping of greed, Tonya and her bizarre family and friends know no limits.

Thankfully the script doesn’t make Tonya Harding look like an innocent caught up in a quagmire. Her flaws and those of her husband and mother are gleefully and painfully shown. The acting is top notch with Robbie and Janney delivering powerhouse performances. Craig Gillespie directs in an almost documentary style which achieves the gritty authenticity for which he strives. The era of the 80s & 90s never looked to tacky with the skating sequences just as breath-taking as the ghastly actions of all involved.

‘I, Tonya’ won’t make you instantly love Tonya Harding. That’s why it works in exploring envy and infamy in honest and kitsch detail. But by the end you understand why things happened and Harding’s feelings towards her loved ones. Recent movie biographies haven’t been as trashy as this one, with ‘I, Tonya’ being a flashy ode to a slice of history taste definitely forgot.

Rating out of 10: 8