Set in 1950's London, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day Lewis) is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who becomes his muse and lover.
Review by Louise Keller: I love this film. Just as a beautiful gown is created from unique design and exquisite fabric, so too is this bewitching film about secrets, obsession and elegance. Paul Thomas Anderson's screenplay is the design; his direction the fabric in a tale that rises and falls like a magnificent, if tempestuous wave on a stormy day. It leaves us breathless. Daniel Day Lewis is astonishing as the meticulous dress designer whose passionate colour palette favours all shades of purple and pink. His Reynolds Woodcock is a fabulous, enigmatic creation conceived and executed with such perfection that his every thought and action becomes ingrained in our psyche. Lewis is a rare artist, who brings intensity and integrity to this and to every role.
When we first meet Reynolds Woodcock, acclaimed designer to royalty and the upper class, we are whisked into the world in which he lives and works - according to his own rules. The pursuit for perfection has no time for confrontations. I love the sequence when he meets Vicky Krieps's Alma, the waitress who takes his order for breakfast. Especially apt when we learn if breakfast is not right, it is hard for Reynolds to recover for the rest of the day. He sees something in her that no-one else seems to have noticed. Including her. Watch how he wipes off her lipstick at their first dinner date, so he can 'see to whom he's talking'. She is seduced. Immediately falling into the mould of muse and lover.
The evolution of their relationship and the ever-changing dynamic between them is fascinating. Krieps is lovely, offering the charm and naivety of Joan Fontaine's Rebecca. Things are made all the more interesting by the presence of Lesley Manville's formidable Cyril, the Mrs Danvers-esque sister who communicates in an unambiguous manner. We have already seen how Cyril deals with Reynolds' live-in girlfriends, who stay beyond their use-by date. Could Reynolds be Hitchcock's Maxim de Winter?
We become enveloped in a world surrounded by elegance and beauty and where the designer gowns are the tools that offer courage. But there is an undercurrent of something much darker. Alma wants to love Reynolds her way, while Reynolds declares he will never marry because marriage would make him deceitful. Is their exchange: 'her dream come true' for 'every piece of her' a recipe for happily ever after? Love changes everything. Or does it? And if it does; how does it? As for the ending, it is delicious.