The best TV shows and movies to stream this week: Phantom Thread and My Brilliant Friend

Adam Mathew 7 December 2018 NEWS

Every week, Finder digs through the week's new releases on Netflix, Stan, Foxtel, Prime Video and more to bring you our top picks for must-watch movies and television shows.

For every new TV show and movie, check out every title arriving in Australia this week.

Movie pick: Phantom Thread (2018)

Streaming on Foxtel Now

What's it about?

When eccentric and renowned British dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a young, strong-willed waitress, lightning strikes and he believes his muse has been found. Whisked from obscurity in the country to the glamour of post-war 1950s London, Alma finds herself working alongside Reynolds and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) at the centre of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutantes and dames alike.

Though Reynolds is accustomed to a bachelor life where women are disposable dalliances – providing this serial monogamist with transitory inspiration and companionship both – Alma becomes a long-term a lover and the source of premium creative fuel. What was once a carefully tailored life of measured emotion and control soon becomes disrupted by love. Essentially, Phantom Thread is a fairy tale portrait of a complicated artistic genius who discovers his heart may yet be mended by a soulmate cut from a very different cloth.

Who's in it?

  • Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock
  • Vicky Krieps as Alma Elson
  • Lesley Manville as Cyril Woodcock
  • Camilla Rutherford as Johanna

What's it like?

This being Daniel Day-Lewis' final film, now that he's announced his retirement after a motorcycle accident, Phantom Thread represents a giant of acting going out on a very high note. Lewis is absolutely magnetic as Reynolds Woodcock, a fascinating sufferer of existential dread who can somehow link the successful debut of a queenly dress as a moment to bitterly reflect upon being haunted by the grim spectre of death. He's also a bit of a spiritual oddball who loves to superstitiously stitch hidden phrases – projected wishes, perhaps – into all that he creates. (Interestingly, this seems to be an actual thing with top designers – Prince Charles once got around in an Alexander McQueen coat that insisted the wearer was a word we shall not utter here.)

Curiosities aside, watching Reynolds' tumultuous relationship bloom with Alma, an offbeat outsider, proves to be an engaging battle of wills. A life of power and influence has allowed the former to shape his world into routines that must not be deviated from. The latter, an uncultured European immigrant, reveals herself to be a shrewd, no-nonsense woman who is well aware of her shelf-life but still won't bow to the dictatorial tendencies of others. The end result: a deftly spun tale that sees Paul Thomas Anderson at his absolute directorial best.

TV Show pick: My Brilliant Friend (2018)

This Italian-American drama is some of the best HBO produced work in years, and if you're familiar with the standards of that original programming broadcaster you will know this is high praise indeed. Based on Elena Ferrante's best-selling Neopolitan novels, My Brilliant Friend is an 8-episode drama that chronicles the intermittent 60-year friendship of Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo.

When an elderly Elena hears that her long since estranged friend has gone missing, a lifetime's worth of bittersweet memories come flooding back from the 1950s. Similarly gifted, impoverished and competing for the top spot in school, these two very different girls forge an unlikely bond. Elena is bookish while Lila is a disagreeable hellraiser, but they both share one desperate wish: to become educated (against the boorish wishes of their parents) and one day escape to Naples. What follows is an incredibly moving saga of a rocky female companionship set against the bleak backdrop of postwar Italy's social and political turbulence.

Who's in it?

  • Elisa del Genio as young Elena
  • Ludovica Nasti as young Lila
  • Margherita Mazzucco as teenaged Elena
  • Gaia Girace as teenaged Lila

What's it like?

First of all, it has to be said that My Brilliant Friend is incredibly well cast. Being beaten into line by their respective parents forces Elena and Lila to go underground with their emotions, to non-verbally communicate their hurt and frustrations across a shared courtyard. This slow boil of bitterness into outright revolution is expertly rendered by talented young amateur actresses Elisa del Genio and Ludovica Nasti (Elisa and Lila respectively). It's simply fascinating to watch a collective consciousness form.

What we have here is also impressively faithful to the much beloved source material. Even the most obsessively nitpicky fan will find little to be upset with as the best feature of Ferrante's work – the emotional internality of her novels – is masterfully reproduced in the form of a retrospective voice-over device. This book-to-screen adaptation deftly illuminates the growing confusion and resentment of a young genius and also explains the intricate social structures of the filthy slum-folk determined to hold her back. Basically, one episode is all it will take for the binge-watch urge to take hold.

What's on this month?

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