I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s day. However, for some odd reason “Phantom Thread” pop out of my mind. Oh my… I’m going tell you something: this film is not a crowd pleaser. You’re either going to love or hate it. This is one of those films that test you, your reaction to it says a lot about your own views on love.
I don’t know if it was intentional, but naming the main character Reynolds Woodcock was hilarious to me. And you know what? Instead of labelling Phantom Thread as a drama/romance type of film, they should have added comedy to the film’s resume.
If you don’t mind spoilers, then continue reading.
Phantom Thread Is A Love Story
Although that might sound like a pretty crazy statement, I’m sticking to my guns today. The same applies to Gone Girl. They are both amazing romantic comedies. Yes, I said it. They are in-depth explorations of toxic relationships with a touch of dark humour. The keyword here is dark. Let me remind you, that both are not pretty love stories. But, they’re real. Why? Because both films don’t shy away from ugly moments that every long-term relationships face at some point. For instance, Woodcock is not a very loyal man. He’s not a cheater, but he doesn’t stick around too long. For him, women are like tissues and he discards them when they’ve served their purpose. In other words, when these women stop bringing him joy, he says goodbye to them.
The love dynamics in Phantom Thread
So, Woodcock is a man of old habits. He applies the same m.o. to every woman he meets. Besides, he has this strict morning routine that makes every OCD person relate to him. As you might have guessed, people like Woodcock don’t like change. However, Alma (his latest romantic interest) is not down for this. Therefore, she refuses to “obey” him and turns his world upside down by challenging his old ways. “Refreshing” is the word that comes to mind when describing a character like Alma.
She has her own ideas about love. First, she’s proactive about what she wants. So for her, there’s no intimacy without vulnerability. And Woodcock is not about that. He likes to project a strong and put together image of himself. So what does she do? She poisons him. Oh well, at this point we all need to give kudos for this woman. She’s definitely getting an A+ for creativity. Wait a minute… Yes, poisoning your partner sounds like a horrible idea. However, she’s not doing it to kill him. Alma just wants to make Woodcock a “little bit sick”, so he can open up to her.
Is Toxic Love Considered Real Love?
Phantom Thread’s peculiar love dynamic between Alma and Woodcock is pretty intriguing to say the least. However, can one call it real love? After a lot of thinking, my answer is yes. As I see it, love is not always pretty. Intimate relationships are not always healthy. If I had to describe love as food, I would say there are many types of love. But just like food, not everything is good for you. Nonetheless, this toxic type of love works for people like Alma and Woodcock. They were in a consensual relationship.
The ending of Phantom Thread says it all. So, Alma is back to poisoning Woodcock with mushrooms and he eats them with a grin on his face. Why? He knows what she’s done and he’s okay with it. Not because he desperately needs Alma in his life, but because he’s finally found his match. Woodcock has found a woman that understands him. The lucky bastard has found “the one” for him.
Having said that, I highly recommend Phantom Thread to everyone with a wicked sense of humour. I’m going to be honest, the first part of the film is not much. However, I believe it was an intentional trick. The plan? Show the audience all the pretty things in the beginning. Then, when no one saw it coming, hit them hard with the ugly. I kid you not, when she started to poison him with those mushrooms that has set a whole another tone for the film. Game changing moment.
Romanticizing Toxic Relationships
When I labelled Phantom Thread as a romantic comedy, I’m not condoning toxic relationships. There’s nothing romantic about being with a toxic partner. However, I believe that films like Phantom Thread present a whole another spectrum of what relationships are sometimes: a hot mess. You see, personally I despise the Disney narrative of relationships. Boy meets girl. At some point, he proposes and they live happily ever after. Bullshit! That’s not how it works, at least for most people. There are a lot of things happening between the marriage and the “happily ever after”. Those are the stories that I want to see more on the silver screen.