The changeable moods, strange habits, and continual concentration with his profession make loving Reynolds a difficult and demanding endeavour — one Alma takes on with more zeal than most.
— Phantom Thread (@Phantom_Thread) March 3, 2018
Until Alma takes extraordinary measures to make her place in Reynolds’ life more significant, the delicate and shaky relationship between the talented dressmaker and his muse remains fragile.
A befuddling conclusion tops the masterpiece with a message of deep love — perhaps too deep.
‘Phantom Thread’ has so many levels, and uncovering them necessitates a closer examination of the film’s climax.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
Synopsis Plot of The Movie ‘Phantom Thread’ (2017)
Alma sits by a fire, talking to an unidentified individual about her connection with Reynolds in the beginning of the film.
Her companion characterises the dressmaker as a demanding man, and she claims to have given him everything.
The scene then shifts to an ordinary morning at the home of renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock, where everything runs well.
He heads to the countryside after a few stressful days delivering dresses to a high-profile clientele that includes a Countess, where he meets Alma, a restaurant server.
Reynolds and Alma form an instant and intense bond, with both being fascinated by the other for very different reasons.
The dressmaker finds his muse in Alma, who inspires him and gives his designs the proper shape. Alma has had a negative perception of herself until she sees herself through Reynolds’ eyes and sees her own beauty.
Despite their connection, Reynolds’ primary concern is his business, and Alma soon feels abandoned as the busy dressmaker’s life goes on in a bustle.
Reynolds’ intermittent expressions of affection, mixed with his nitpicking of Alma’s routines (such as too much “movement” at breakfast), lead to a squabble over a meal that was supposed to be a surprise.
The disagreement comes to a close with Reynolds telling Alma to go, following which the latter sneaks poisonous mushrooms into the former’s tea.
Reynolds later passes out while working on a dress for the Princess. He is in a delirious fever for the next few days, and Alma continuously watches over him.
When he regains consciousness, the formerly detached dressmaker understands how important his muse is to him and proposes to her, which she accepts.
Ending of the ‘Phantom Thread’ Movie: Does Alma Poison Reynolds Woodcock?
Once married, Reynolds is even more irritated by what he perceives as Alma’s distractions from his profession.
Apart from being irritated by minor details such as the noises she makes when buttering her toast, he now finds it difficult to concentrate at work and complains to Cyril about it.
Reynolds goes on a rant about how Alma’s presence has changed everything inside out and turned him inside out, not realising Alma is in the room.
The film’s climax then gradually builds as Alma prepares an omelette for Reynolds’ dinner.
The deadly mushrooms are cut up and fried in butter this time, and Reynolds watches Alma create the omelette with interest.
She says she wants him powerless and on his back, so she can take care of him while he takes the first bite.
Before he becomes sick again, the dressmaker continues to chew and asks Alma to kiss him.
The film ends with glimpses from the future, in which the couple has a child and grows old together, before returning to the present, where Reynolds, claiming to be “hungry,” begins to dress Alma, his eager muse.
As a result, Alma poisons Reynolds twice in the course of the movie. What’s most surprising is how the dynamic between the artist and his muse can withstand his being poisoned by her and still not destroy their bond, if anything, it strengthens it.
Alma’s plot revolves around dangerous local mushrooms, which she collects in the countryside after consulting a book on fungal identification.
Alma does not intend to murder Reynolds, even though she poisons him. She simply wants him to be defenceless and tender so that she may care for him, as she expresses at the film’s climax.
Alma has learnt from experience that Reynolds is usually too preoccupied with his career to have a meaningful relationship with her.
His “strong” attitude vanishes when he’s unwell (or sad, as he is after a less-than-perfect design presentation), and the diligent dressmaker becomes more open to emotional connection.
Of course, not wanting to murder Reynolds is admirable, but Alma’s faith in his survival after swallowing her lethal mushroom-laced concoctions appears to be a little naive.
She acknowledges that she doesn’t know for sure that he won’t die but that if he does, she’ll just have to wait (like she has previously) until they meet again.
Even if Reynolds dies along the road, Alma is confident that her patience and devotion to him will keep them together.
Is ‘Reynolds’ Aware that ‘Alma’ has Poisoned Him? Why Is It That he Eats the Omelette?
Reynolds has no idea what has happened to him the first time he gets poisoned and claims to be sick like he has never been sick before.
He refuses to visit a doctor, and before recuperating, he spends a couple of nights in a feverish fever.
However, the second time Alma poisons him, Reynolds appears to be aware of what is going on and willingly participates in his own poisoning.
Reynolds watches Alma seriously as she cooks his omelette, well aware that she overheard him moaning about how Alma has hampered his life and creative process.
He appears to be slowly putting the pieces together as he watches her create a mushroom omelette and recognises that something is wrong with the dish even before eating the first bite.
When a unique young woman meets a renowned dressmaker, they're in for a delicious affair of twists, turns and power struggles. Watch it on Amazon Video.https://t.co/mih51gKTG4 pic.twitter.com/kBq7OuvG25
— Phantom Thread (@Phantom_Thread) March 30, 2018
Naturally, as soon as Reynolds takes the first bite, Alma admits to poisoning him, explaining that she wants him to be powerless and that he will become very ill but not die.
Reynolds and Alma have an unusual food interaction, which is suggested at when Alma prepares a romantic supper for the dressmaker minus the poisonous mushrooms.
Despite his hatred of excessive butter, she gives him asparagus in butter sauce, which enrages Reynolds and causes him to wonder why she is forcing him to eat something he doesn’t enjoy.
Reynolds, on the other hand, “gallantly” swallows a few pieces of asparagus. Eating the poisoned omelette appears to be a continuation of the motif, as Reynolds accepts his muse’s unusual (and potentially murderous) way of expressing her love for him through food.
In the Movie, Who is Alma Talking To?
Alma sits by a fire in the film’s opening sequence and then sporadically throughout, recounting her connection with Reynolds to an unseen individual.
She recalls her husband’s severe demeanour as well as extremely touching moments, even joking about poisoning him.
Alma is seen talking to Dr. Robert Hardy (Brian Gleeson), who sits across from her by the fire, at the end of the movie.
Although the context of their talk is not given, a few insights can be derived from it. The dialogue clearly takes place after the events of the film, given Alma’s description of Reynolds being poisoned and the aftermath.
Also, because Reynolds is portrayed in the present tense, it appears that he is still alive, and Alma’s appearance suggests that the omelette episode occurred not long ago.
Though it’s unclear what motivates Alma to speak so openly with Dr. Hardy — she’s only met him a few times — it appears that she has no one else with whom she can discuss her connection.
Dr. Hardy is her age, and he appears to make a fascinating companion chat to her just as he persuades her to go out on New Year’s Eve.
It is clear that Dr. Hardy and Alma have no romantic feelings for each other. Despite this, the former is fascinated by the latter, and Alma, who lives in the solemn Woodcock home, is overjoyed to have someone to talk to.
What Is It That Reynolds Woodcock Sews Into The Dress?
Reynolds’ practise of stitching an “artefact” or blessing into his dress, which he refers to as a phantom thread, is one of the first (and most intimate) things he discloses about himself with Alma.
Alma assists the dressmaker’s employees in completing the vital job after he falls unwell and is unable to help finish the Princess’ dress.
She discovers a little tag stitched into the hem of the skirt with the words “Never Cursed” inscribed on it while working on it.
The importance of the phrase may be traced back to Reynolds and Alma’s first date when the former discusses many superstitions about making wedding gowns.
Because his superstitious nanny (nicknamed “Black Death“) refused to help, the talented seamstress worked on a dress for his mother for months as a teenager. His sister, who aided him, is still single.
As a result, it appears that Reynolds has some superstitions regarding manufacturing bridal gowns, as seen by the words “Never Cursed” embroidered onto the Princess’ wedding gown.
Reynolds does eventually marry, despite the fact that she has designed numerous wedding gowns (which, according to superstition, results in one not finding a spouse).
His wife, on the other hand, poison him on a semi-regular basis, leaving the spectator to wonder whether the talented dressmaker is cursed.