Following the elemental There Will be Blood was always going to be a challenge for writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, so this latest drama operates on a more intimate scale, yet with hardly less expressive intensity.
America, post-WWII, and traumatised ex-sailor Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a man apart, filled with rages and desires he can barely control, much less understand. By chance he wanders into the orbit of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), scientist, philosopher and figurehead of a nascent cult known as ‘The Cause’ – if the latter can put Freddy back together, perhaps the critics will see that his theories on past-life regression hold some water after all?
Expect the unpredictable as their push-pull relationship plays out, driven by Anderson’s elliptical editing, a swirling Jonny Greenwood score and vibrantly contrasted performances from the two leads. The result is captivating, a seething mosaic of thought and emotion, pieced together by a filmmaker confidently exploring the troubled depths of the American psyche. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)
There will be 70mm screenings of this film shown at a later date (to be announced).