Thomas Pollock’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Coen Brothers for me personally are sort of a hit and miss, but I have never properly disliked any of their films I have seen. Oscar Isaac plays a refreshing and easily likable performance as a character, who at first you should really perceive as a bum wasting his time. The film says much more than that. Llewyn, and his troubled history with his partner, is struggling to move on from what happened, and his music means so much to him.
The cat, was a brilliant symbol that almost mirrors Llewyn's life. It runs out of the person's house he was crashing in, and eventually he grabs it. So he walks to the train station with it and it isn't long before it escapes. Just like Llewyn's grip on his life. Later in the film, this became even more clear in the road scene, then even later when we see the start of the film repeated. (no spoilers)
What I always find impressive in Joel and Ethan Coen's films is just how brilliant their cinematography is. Barton Finks dank, dark and mundane atmosphere, the towering buildings and claustrophobia in The Hudsucker Proxy, the crisp and clean look in A Serious Man; most if not all their films are carefully well-shot. Roger Deakins, the masterful cinematographer did not work on this film,but Bruno Delbonnel has done terrific job. The low roof of the darkly-lit basket house with the smoke in the air and the crowd focusing on the performers- the film really gives you the feel for the 60's.
The cast was great. John Goodman (who has now starred in 5 Coen movies) played a hilarious (and cynical) character, who really reminded me of Orson Welles in Touch of Evil, with the beard, hat, crutches and jacket.
The way the film shows us the folk music scene is refreshing. I do not know much about folk music, but the soundtrack of this film really gave you a flavour of what folk music is all about. This quote I think sum it up nicely:
If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it's a folk song
The film doesn't forget to blend humour along the drama, and the film really has a wonderful balance of both, which the Coens' have a knack for. My only issue with the film was that it was not long enough, and I wish we got more explanation of Llewyn's history. However, I like that bold approach where we don't get flashbacks of memories that haunts Llewyn. I found that extremely refreshing. Overall, this is one of the best films of 2013 that is bound to make you laugh, smile and feel that sense of wholesomeness that folk music has.