Inside Llewyn Davis ★★★

The appeal of Inside Llewyn Davis is established within the first 40 minutes, where we are introduced to the titular character with a sense of mystery, evident in his skill to create and perform wonderful music, while suffering through a personal life that is tightly wounded by toxic relationships and extreme dependency. The Coen Brothers allows sympathy to be drawn from us easily, and through that, it becomes the hook, the curiosity to explore such a character and understand the factors behind his predicament.

It is in this aspect of the film that the Coen brothers have created a world efficiently “lived in”; justified through its excellent photography and often naturalistic performances, we learn abundantly of the culture that Llewyn Davis and his peers live, the coolness and hardship of it all, and by slowly penetrating such a character, we are treated to something more personal, thought inducing, and occasionally emotionally riveting. The experience never restrains itself to become overly document, but its depiction feels fittingly timely and detailed to perfection that one is bound to gain something new - despite one’s intelligence over such a period. My personal wisdom of the Folk scene is little to none, sustained only by my occasional listens through an entire Bob Dylan album, therefore seeing this film was shedding some fascinating lights on the period, while pulsating with resonating emotions from the central character.

As stated earlier, it is the peeling layers that draw me into Inside Llewyn Davis, slowly as it navigates its protagonist to his seemingly routine and desperate lifestyle, crumbling the idealistic barriers that introduced him, ultimately leaving us with a snapshot of a fracture and potentially hopeless man, swallowed by the scene and personal yearnings, a suffering that extends to those he interacts with. Llewyn Davis is a figure that can easily be deemed as hateful through his hardened stubbornness, an attitude that is constantly defensive of his own integrity as an artist, unwilling to reveal the truths of himself to those around him, thus causing offence often without glimmer of justification in his response, leaving impressions towards him at a repulsive high, sinking him lower of our opinions.

It is when the Coen brothers divert the character away from the Greenwich village, particularly in the titular character’s encounter with Roland Turner, dwelling on a situation far too much in length, unable to dignify its existence in the narrative, at least not obviously. Then it extends the character further away, losing that appeal that radiated in its first act, thrusting him into areas that fits with the downward pathway of the character but is constantly interacting with those stranger to him, lacking that quality that Oscar Isaac and Carey Mulligan, and many others, were able to deliver. Then the film’s final act arrives, finding himself back in familiar territory, the Coen brothers take on an unusual approach in emphasising an ambiguity in the overall experience; a final 10 minutes that does not reveal enough to pin down the directors’ intentions.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a treat to those who are devoted fans of the duo-director, absorbing their wonderful shifts of dark humour and pitifulness; I was able to remain with it until the plot begins to push its character to boundaries that are far less compelling than they should, judging by the aesthetic that the Coen brothers have created, I cannot deny that I would find myself drawn back to their atmospheric and lived-in depiction of the 1960s folk scene.

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