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Daniel Day-Lewis, the enigmatic legend, and who is widely considered to be one of - if not the - best actor ever has his curtain close with a brilliant meditation on the battle between function, love, routine and age.
You may be forgiven for presuming that for his finale Daniel Day-Lewis would leave us with an unhinged performance, much like his earlier work with the same director (Paul Thomas Anderson) in There Will Be Blood. But instead he plays Reynolds Woodcock, a man at the heart of London’s fashion industry who is utterly obsessed with his work and the routine that allows it to flourish. Along with his sister-cum-assistant-cum-secretary-cum-carer, Cyril, Reynolds works around the clock to provide the elite of London with the finest dresses.
Reynolds meets Alma, played by Vicky Krieps, whilst having breakfast at a café in the country, a scene in which Anderson captures beautifully the unspoken apparition of attraction. Just as Reynolds scrupulously creates dresses for women to fit into, so too does he get Alma tailored to his own minutiae-obsessed routine. We begin to see an unnerving cycle of events, namely that this had to previous women before Alma. In a palpably disconcerting scene, which was preluded with as much intimacy so as you thought you were watching an ASMR video, Cyril tells Alma how she is perfectly shaped to Reynolds’ taste: ‘he likes them with a little belly’. Indeed, the film tempts us into the thinking that Alma’s life and her relationship with Reynolds is destined to be like that of her predecessors.
However, we soon realise that Alma is a little bit different. She breaks the mould made for her (she does fit the dress she wears, we might say); she refuses to be merely a worker for Reynolds who happens to be his mistress. Alma asserts her primacy within Reynolds’ life, but in order to do this she must first break his seemingly indomitable routine. In upholstering this routine, Day-Lewis excellently portrays the subtleties of petulance within Reynolds, a man who constantly asserts his individuality and bachelor lifestyle but is left always wanting Cyril and longs for his mother.
Alma, in want of Reynolds to herself, concocts a plan to bring him to the precarious edge of death. In doing so, she renders him into a childlike state to which she assumes this motherly role that Reynolds so yearns for.
It is rumoured that the original went on for over four hours. This is hardly surprising due to the film’s ultimate reliance on character development – and it is most definitely the richer for it – but when the credits rolled I felt both a pang and a relief. At times it felt just a bit too long. Nevertheless, the film stands as one of the best of the year and a perfect send off to the brilliant Daniel Day-Lewis.
Image Credits: telegraph.co.uk