Jaime Rebanal’s review published on Letterboxd:
A review I wrote for There Will Be Cinema.
In the Coen Brothers's Inside Llewyn Davis, the qualities that characterize their usual film are placed under a different light and we have a more sombre result than expected. Even with a distinctive contrast from their usual tone, what is left behind right here is truly one of the finest offerings from the duo and perhaps it might also be their most heartfelt, even with its own cynicisms within the context. It's drenched in melancholy, but that's only a small factor in contributing to why it works so well as a whole, in one of this decade's landmark achievements.
Inside Llewyn Davis is a stunning portrait of self-obsession, inside of our titular character, a folk singer who is unwilling to accept his own failures. In recent times, his success is fading away, the portrait of self-destruction we're left with is perhaps the film's highest point. It drives what could already be a straightforward story into one of the most complex portraits of the search for meaning. Only the Coen brothers could have made such a film like this as successful as it stands now, and it's absolutely stunning what they manage to pull off.
The cinematography gives the very feeling of appearing dry, as a means of representing both the season which it takes place and the emptiness of a soul like Llewyn Davis. He's a man who is searching for more inside of a place that does not want him around, no matter how good his efforts may be. This cinematography evokes that very mood, and it also results in perhaps one of the most beautiful efforts by the Coen brothers, if not, their most beautiful film in terms of the visual aesthetic. It does look noticeably different from their usual film as it was not shot by their regular Roger Deakins, but it still evokes the time and mood astoundingly.
Amongst the melancholic cinematography and mood, what aids a piece like this more is the beauty in the soundtrack. It consists mainly of tunes that evoke the 1960's so perfectly, in a more depressed state. For the moment the film starts with Oscar Isaac's beautiful performance of "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me" it sets the tone for the rest of the film, just the emotional resonance it creates is wonderful. Not only is it wonderful in the sense it plays a melancholic tone for the film, but it also takes the viewers back into the setting and creates a reflection of the psychology of our troubled protagonist.
Oscar Isaac is a delight to watch in here, not only in terms of his singing but seeing what he leaves inside of this performance too. This is a most nuanced role that only the Coen brothers could have written, a character only Oscar Isaac could have played to form such a wonderful arc. We soon forget he's playing a character, because the Coen brothers insist through the soundtrack and appearance of Inside Llewyn Davis that we are to picture what this sort of self-obsession leads to, the destruction of one's soul, after delving into this sense of overwhelming frustration and then passing it onto those who watch the film.
Seeing the Coen brothers going under this approach was a most fascinating change from them. Amidst the melancholic atmospheres going "inside Llewyn Davis," what we've always loved about the duo is still present in the cynicism that can be felt throughout, within a frustrating but also deeply affecting piece from them. I've watched this quite a lot just in awe at how much they can delve into with Inside Llewyn Davis, whether it be the folk music scene of the 1960's or the self-destruction amongst famed artists who are fading over time. This is an absolutely wonderful film on many counts, it gives is so much to doze on and off about within the simplest of things.