First Hit: I wasn’t impressed or engaged with the story but the characters were interesting on their own.
The setup of Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) as a particularly fastidious man, was watching him shine his shoes. Any man who has shined shoes, knows what he was doing was very detailed and time consuming. He also liked silence at breakfast while he works on dress designs.
The relationship between him and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) was clearly identified when she asks Reynolds if he would like her to get rid of the woman currently living with them. She’s the controller and enforcer of his life because he just wants to create dresses. The world revolves around him.
Taking a short vacation to his country home he is bowled over by a waitress in a café. Alma (Vicky Krieps) shows her interest and he invites her to dinner. Soon he has her posing in one of his dresses in his dressmaking studio.
In his creative world, he’s focused on one thing, making his art. She’s both fascinated and slightly cautious, when he begins to take her measurements. All of a sudden and un-expectantly, Cyril walks in, grabs his notebook, sits down, and records the measurements as Reynolds barks them out. Her stare at Alma indicates a sort of an; oh another one and how long will this one last, sort of feel.
Reynolds likes her and she becomes both, his lover and worker as she melds into his life in the London home. This home is also their factory and about a half dozen women come each day to sew his creations that me makes for the upper crust of society.
When he starts criticizing Alma’s loud eating habits at breakfast, it is instantly known how his world is only about himself and what he wants. When a gross woman of wealth passes out in one of his creations, Alma suggests that they take back his work of art and they proceed to strip the passed-out woman of this dress. This makes Reynolds happy because she's protecting his work.
However, his me first behavior gets old in the film and for Alma. Eventually, Alma finds a way to make Reynolds pay more and deeper attention to her, and although it’s a deadly dance, it works.
There is a craftsmanship in this film that is unmistaken. One scene reflecting this, is when Alma and Reynolds are walking down a cobblestone street. The luminescence of the street and background are wonderful.
Day-Lewis is intense and good in this role, but to select this as his last film, I think he could have selected a more engaging and interesting character. Manville was amazing and her performance is the most powerful thing in the film. Krieps is strong and I liked her strength and vulnerability. Paul Thomas Anderson wrote and directed this film. I thought the dialogue was interesting but the story wasn’t one that kept my attention.
Overall: There wasn’t enough to make this story really engaging.