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Set in 1950’s London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.


Screened for critics and press ‘for your consideration’ awards season, PHANTOM THREAD (opening Christmas Day) already arrives with accolades of good news.  PHANTOM THREAD marks two of writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s firsts.  PHANTOM THREAD is his first film shot outside the U.S. and also makes his most structured film..  Which is good, as his looser piece THE MASTER was a mess.

50’s London.  The film’s main character is renowned dressmaker named Reynolds Jeremiah Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis).  He and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) dress members of the royal family, film stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants and dames with the distinctive style of The House of Woodcock.  Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a strong-willed young woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by love.

A major factor in PHANTOM THREAD is necessarily the costumes.   Mark Bridges is credited for doing the costumes which include some of his original designs along with designs from Versace and Balenciaga.  Supporting actress Lesley Manville has been quoted as saying that she spent more time fitting than in acting rehearsals.  

Three-time Oscar WinnerDay-Lewis is nothing short of perfect as the obsessive perfectionist designer.  But star credit goes to Mike Leigh’s favourite actress Lesley Manville who plays Reynold’s sister,  Cyril who is more that just a sister.  She controls her brother and everything around her.  Obviously things come to a boil when she tries to keep Alma under her hand.

The film is bookmarked by Alma telling and narrating her love story.  Written by Anderson, one assumes that the film is based on fiction as the story includes a chapter in which Ama poisons Woodcock with mushrooms.  A murderer would never confess a murder in his or her story.  The film is best described as a trouble romantic drama rather that a biopic of a famous designer.  Anderson captures perfectly the moment of love when the two fall in love for the first time.

Anderson’s film unfolds meticulously in every scene, planned and executed, reflecting the careful care the subject Woodcock puts into the design of his dresses.  Though the film’s pace is slow, the film is no less compelling.  The audience is kept on their toes from start to finish.  One cannot predict what raw emotion will unfold next, whether Woodcock would blow up or be pleased.  The best example is the segment in which Alma empties the Woodcock house so that she can prepare dinner for with with just the two of them.  When Cyril advises against it, Alma still goes ahead.  The suspense on how the evening will go, makes the film’s mosts suspenseful moment.  Anderson  uses closeups frequently as well as piano playing on the soundtrack to heighten the tension in a scene.

PHANTOM THREAD marks Anderson’s best movie along with THERE WILL BE BLOOD, also incidentally starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

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1997 Movie Review: THE BOXER, 1997


Movie Reviews

directed by: Jim Sheridan

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Emily Watson, Brian Cox, Nye Heron, Jer O’Leary
Review by Virginia De Witt

SYNOPSIS:On the eve of peace being declared in Northern Ireland, Danny Flynn is released from prison after serving 14 years for his youthful involvement with the IRA. Danny’s former girlfriend, Maggie, married his best friend, Tommy Doyle, and had a son, Liam. Tommy is now in prison himself and Maggie is watched vigilantly by the local community as she is now a prisoner’s wife and must be above reproach at all times. Danny sets out to start his life anew, and continue with his boxing career which had been interrupted by his prison term. He begins by initiating a training program for young boxers in the youth centre where Maggie also works. They reconnect even though it is dangerous for them to be seen together. At the same time, Danny begins to fight professionally again. Events spiral out of control as Maggie’s young son, Liam, is furious over his mother’s attachment to Danny. As well, Danny’s newfound commitment to the peace process sets him on a collision course with members of the local IRA.


This third collaboration between writer/director Jim Sheridan and Daniel Day-Lewis is the least well known. It was shot from an original screenplay co-written by Sheridan and Terry George. Their main object in telling the fictional story of Danny Flynn was to dramatize the culmination of the peace process and the consequences of it in the lives of ordinary people living in Belfast. In an interview on the DVD, Sheridan says the idea for the story came to him while he was living in New York in the ‘80s watching the news from Ireland, which was all bad. Then one night, a young Irish boxer, Barry McGuigan, was featured and said, “Leave the fighting to McGuigan.” Sheridan relates how he found it “… kind of innocent and naive a little bit, but great. Here was a guy in a violent profession saying stop fighting. That contradiction interested me.”

It’s that contradiction that is at the heart of the drama Sheridan and Geoge have crafted here. It is a thoughtful and intelligent take on the sometimes painful and dramatic progress of the peace process in Northern Ireland, which however, lacks some of the focus and tightness of storytelling that distinguished “My Left Foot” and “In The Name of the Father.” The tension that drives the story comes from the split on the republican side over whether to accept the terms being offered by the British to achieve peace, ie decommissioning weapons, etc. Danny (Daniel Day-Lewis), his friend and boxing mentor, Ike Weir (Ken Stott) and Maggie’s father (Brian Cox), an IRA chief, are all on the side of negotiating. They are each, in turn, confronted by Harry (Gerard McSorley), a break away IRA member, in violent episodes meant to sabotage the peace process. In the midst of this political drama, Sheridan works in a love story that is affecting and simply drawn.

Sheridan is ambitious here, attempting to combine what initially seem like too many elements for a small film. He does manage, however, to keep the political story, the love story and finally the boxing narrative of Danny’s attempted career comeback, balanced for most of the film. It is not until well into the last act when Sheridan cuts to Danny’s big fight in a London hotel that the film loses its momentum and bogs down. The London sequence is unnecessary dramatically as it doesn’t show us anything we haven’t already seen in Belfast regarding the peace process. It does, however, allow the filmmaker to make his point about violence by having Danny refuse to keep fighting a man who is clearly in distress. This scene is also an emotional nod to Barry McGuigan (who worked on the film as Daniel Day-Lewis’s trainer). McGuigan relates in an interview on the DVD how, when he was a professional boxer, he had fought a man in London, who had died later of head injuries. As admirable as all of this is, the point has already been made about Danny’s desire to use his boxing skills for peace in the earlier Belfast scenes. The result is that the build up to the final confrontation between Danny and Harry at the end of the film has been crucially interrupted.

Despite this lapse, overall the film works well. As usual Sheridan, and his actors, are wonderful at capturing the nuances of Irish life believably and dramatically. In the extended wedding scene that opens the film or in the depictions of the daily interactions at the Holy Family Boxing Club, the rhythms of language, the pleasures and pressures of family life and social obligations are all caught knowingly, and yet seem completely natural in their context.

The cast is crucial in this process. Daniel Day-Lewis is intense, but quiet, as Danny Flynn, displaying a barely acknowledged sadness just beneath his surface that is moving. This is a man who is aware of what he has lost by virtue of his earlier decisions and has now grown used to being alone. It is easy for us to understand how Danny now only wants to start his life again. As an important part of that new life, Emily Watson, as Maggie, displays a disarming simplicity. Maggie is quiet too, but it is a quiet strength. We come to know that in her world to talk too much is dangerous. Maggie learned long ago how to navigate her way through the byways of a life lived in proximity to violence. Watson lets us know subtly that this endless process, both personal and political, is now wearing her down. As well, she has a nice rapport with Daniel Day-Lewis in their scenes together. Ken Stott, as Danny’s trainer, is memorable as an older man who, like Danny, is desperately trying to begin again but knows the odds are against him.

The original music by Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer is eery, evocative of tribal chants, mixed with Celtic sounds. The cinematography by Chris Menges has a sometimes strangely blueish tint to it, but is clear and sharp and captures the dark world out of which these characters are struggling to emerge.

The ending of “The Boxer” lacks the joyous completion of “My Left Foot” or the triumphal vindication of “In The Name of the Father.” There is, instead, an air of quiet resolution about it, and the film overall. Nonetheless, “The Boxer” deserves its place alongside these other two excellent films and should be revisited



Happy Birthday: Daniel Day-Lewis

danieldaylewis.jpgHappy Birthday actor Daniel Day-Lewis

Born: Daniel Michael Blake Day-Lewis
April 29, 1957 in Greenwich, London, England, UK

Read the best of reviews of the acting legend:

A ROOM WITH A VIEWA Room with a View
dir. James Ivory
Helena Bonham-Carter
Julian Sands

dir. Jim Sheridan
Brenda Fricker

THE LAST OF THE MOHICANSThe Last of the Mohicans
dir. Mann
Madeleine Stowe

THE AGE OF INNOCENCEThe Age of Innocence
dir. Martin Scorsese
Winona Ryder
Michelle Pfeiffer

IN THE NAME OF THE FATHERIn the Name of the Father
dir. Jim Sheridan

dir. Jim Sheridan
Emily Watson

There Will be Blood
dir. PT Anderson
Day Lewis
Paul Dano

NINE Movie PosterNine
dir. Rob Marshall
Marion Cotillard
Penélope Cruz

dir. Steven Spielber
Daniel Day-Lewis
Joseph Gordon-Levitt