Recently I watched the Oscar nominated movie Phantom Thread, starring Daniel Day Lewis. In the beginning a character of Johanna (played by Camilla Rutherford) is shown as in some relationship with the protagonist and later there has no mention about her.

I did not understand the significance of having that character in the plot.


While I couldn't find an authoritative voice (e.g. an explanation by the director), several reviews point to a likely interpretation.

Jonathan Romney in Film Comment :

Early on, we see him at breakfast, refusing — despite her desperate efforts — to give his attention to a young woman named Johanna (Camilla Rutherford, her extraordinary eyes blazing with anxiety). “I simply don’t have time for confrontations,” he sighs — and we know that Johanna will soon be leaving the house, dispensed with like last season’s ball gown.

Anthony Lane in The New Yorker:

“I can’t begin my day with a confrontation.” So says Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), a celebrated fashion designer, who lives and works in a tranquil London square, and who despises any threat to that tranquillity. It is morning, and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), who helps to run the business, is at the breakfast table, as is a plate of iced buns, which he disdains, and an elegant young woman named Johanna (Camilla Rutherford). For her, likewise, he appears to have lost his appetite.

She is likely a predecessor to Alma who failed to live up to his expectations. She shows the pattern that Alma breaks.


My impression in the film was that she was a predecessor to Alma. A model whom he used to try out his dresses on and who he looked to as a sort of muse. By the time of the start of the film though, he has clearly already grown tired of her and is ready to let her go, which she is clearly upset about. His coldness at the beginning also gave me the impression that she was not the first, and that going through phases of excitement and then resentment with younger women was pretty routine for him until Alma breaks the cycle.

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