What’s even worse is that Reynolds is a kind of mother’s boy, his life now run by his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), a more complex Miss Danvers (from Hitchcock’s Rebecca), who, at first, is dreadfully jealous of her brother’s new discovery, but gradually begins to appreciate Alma’s ability to learn quickly and her proficiency at fitting, modeling, and helping with the sewing, as well as taking some of the load of caring for Reynolds' temperamental fits. Alma’s very quietude seems, at times, as the perfect antidote for Reynolds’ tirades.
Of course, this is hardly the first time that Anderson has focused on inexplicable relationships and their personal obsessions: one need only remember the almost homoerotic connections between Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the same director’s The Master, or the similarly strange interconnections between Joaquin Phoenix and the Josh Brolin character in Inherent Vice. Indeed, one may describe Anderson’s films as focusing on strange relationships that have as much to do with obsession as with love.
By this time, however, Cyril has grown quite fond of her Rebecca, and refuses to dismiss Alma or to help her tortured brother. And overhearing this discussion, Alma determines it is again time to “slow him down,” mixing up an even more potent mixture of the dangerous mushrooms in an omelette. Calmly she places the plate before him, but we realize that Reynolds has observed her actions and knows precisely what she is up to. Nonetheless, he bites into the egg dish, carefully chewing up the mixture, as, finally, Alma admits to what she desires: for him to need her caring for him once again. This “outsider” has most definitely become the “insider” in this house. As she tartly tells the legendary Belgian princess , who has previously shunned her: “I live in this house.”