Debbie’s review published on Letterboxd:
Like a sweeping folksong, Inside Llewyn Davis touches your heart through its melancholy chords, yet enthralling lyrics and tale. Filled with bleak cinematography, the Coen Brothers' new anticipated film does not disappoint. A depiction of a struggling artist -- Llewyn Davis -- as we journey through the hardships of his passion for music, it furthermore explores the risks and the meaning of the pursuing what it is to be an artist.
The opening lyrics, "Hang me, oh hang me... I am dead and gone", already begin to foreshadow the harsh realities and otherwise unpromising career of Llewyn Davis. The dark and cynical humour, along with more absurdist moments (aka the cat) - draw in moments of nihilism and the real question of whether it is so worth it to continue his loved profession. The Coens' structure of the film is intriguing - its cyclic progression (ideas and moments that come and go) leaves no real answer to the prevalent question of whether Lewis makes it big. This is no film about making it big towards stardom, it is a bleak depiction of the eternal struggles of being an artist and the true meaning of being alive.
Oscar Isaac is absolutely phenomenal in this film; bitterness, covered with dark humour -- he leads the film with not necessarily the most brilliantly likeable and perfect musician, better yet a shaggy, rundown one -- but nevertheless, makes us constantly root for him. His subtle performance, along with his singing abilities make an aching and charming performance which resonates for the entire film. The supporting cast are also great, with Carey Mulligan ("fuck you!"), Justin Timberlake, and Stark Sands (so glad to see him in a film!) providing some of the more amusing moments.
Besides the impressive cast, the soundtrack of this film is one of my favourites of the year. It varies from the more dark and dreary folksongs, into the snappy and upbeat "Please Mr. Kennedy" (puhpuhpuh please still has be cackling). Whether it is played over the top as a score, or in moments with just the guitar and voices - it simultaneously provides interest and a melancholic tone to the atmosphere of the film.
The Coen Brothers have crafted a simplistic yet interesting story, filling it with a naturalistic screenplay and stand-out performances. It is a raw, heartfelt and desolate piece of film-making ... a fascinating look of what living is worth, and of the hardships of being an artist.