Esteban Gonzalez’s review published on Letterboxd:
"If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it's a folk song."
The Coen brothers have worked together over the past couple of decades delivering some inspiring work. Their films are extremely varied (ranging from dark comedies to westerns or thrillers) and that is why people rank their films so differently according to their own genre preferences. What these films tend to have in common is that they focus on an unfortunate main character (the Coen brothers don't seem to be too interested in successful characters) and they also include a lot of quirky characters. The Coens are also great at writing interesting characters that despite being unpleasant at times still capture our attention, and they also include a lot of dark and sharp humor. Inside Llewyn Davis is one of those films where we are forced to follow an unpleasant guy in the course of a week and somehow hope he recovers and achieves his goal. This is a film that you probably enjoy more when you think about it once it's over or on a rewatch because it's philosophical and sad, but rewarding none the less if you stick through it. It is also open to many readings and interpretations. You can think of this as being an honest film about someone who doesn't achieve his dreams. We've been saturated with so many films that focus on following our dreams and never giving up on them, but it is rare to see a film focusing on someone who doesn't achieve them. Like Llewyn, we sometimes throw away other possibilities for success because we are too blinded on pursuing our own thing. That is exactly what happens here (and in this way it differs from A Serious Man where the main character suffers misfortune from things that he can't control). Llewyn could've listened and taken good advice, but he's so narcissistic and blinded by his own ambition that he misses several good opportunities. Another way you can read this film, and this is the one that worked best for me, is that Llewyn is learning to cope with the loss of his partner. He was a better singer when he wasn't on his own and now that he has lost his partner he doesn't seem to know what to do next. He is a tortured artist struggling to cope with grief. It's as if the Coens were admitting that they wouldn't know how to make films without each other. They inspire one another and that is where their success relies. Perhaps if something would happen to one of them they would feel like Llewyn, lost and unable to move on. This is just brilliant filmmaking and the Coens prove once again that they are on top of their game.
The film takes place in the course of one week as we follow a struggling folk singer named Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaacs) across Greenwich Village in the winter of 1961. He has recently released a solo album that isn't selling. With no money and no apartment, Llewyn spends his days jumping from couch to couch at friends houses while performing small gigs at local Cafes. One of the places he crashes in is at fellow musicians, Jim (Justin Timberlake) and Jean's (Carey Mulligan) apartment. Llewyn isn't really a guy anyone wants to be around much, but he continues to pursue his dream of becoming a solo artist. In a way he's his own worst enemy as many of the obstacles he faces are his own doing.
I'm not a fan of depressing films, but somehow the Coens captured my attention through their smart script and beautifully constructed film. The gray cinematography is gorgeous and really sets the melancholic tone of the film. Somehow despite not liking Llewyn, Isaacs manages to portray his character so well that we do root for him and want him to succeed. It's an impressive film that succeeds thanks to Isaacs heartfelt performance. We also get to meet some of the quirky characters that the Coens always include in their films. John Goodman and Garrett Hedlund were the chosen ones this time around and they both added the dark humor in this otherwise sad and melancholic film. The soundtrack is also a lot of fun to listen too and Isaacs has a great voice.