In his final film, Day-Lewis reunites with Paul Thomas Anderson to deliver a masterful performance as a society dressmaker beguiled by a young waitress
A brilliant English couturier of the postwar age: fastidious and cantankerous, humourless and preposterous – and heterosexual, in that pre-Chatterley era when being a bachelor and fashion designer wasn’t automatically associated in the public mind with anything else. Daniel Day-Lewis gives us his cinema swansong in this new film from writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson. He is Reynolds Jeremiah Woodcock, celebrated dressmaker to the debutantes of Britain, but now under pressure from the New Look and influences from across the Channel. He treats us to a fine display of temper on the subject of that unforgivably meretricious word: chic.
Just when he is at his lowest, Woodcock falls in love with a shy, maladroit German waitress at the country hotel where he happens to be staying. This is Alma, played by Vicky Krieps. With his connoisseur’s eye, Woodcock sees in her a grace and beauty that no one else had noticed, certainly not Alma herself. Dazzled, she comes to live with him as his assistant and model in the central London fashion house over which Woodcock rules with his sister and confidante Cyril, played with enigmatic reserve by Lesley Manville. But, as Woodcock becomes ever more impossible and controlling, submissive Alma must find new, more dysfunctional ways to re-establish her emotional mastery over him.