I rarely watch a movie and enjoy everything about it. Most movies have noticeable flaws, in their cinematography or script, for example. Inside Llewyn Davis, written and directed by the Coen brothers, was a near perfect film. The movie portrays grief, anger and failure in an interesting and engaging way. Oscar Isaac’s brilliant performance (as always), combined with the beautiful cinematography and soundtrack (amongst other things) was more than enough to secure this film a spot on my ‘favourites’ list.
*Please be aware that the rest of this review contains spoilers for ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’*
I left this movie with a head full of questions and thoughts. The questions I asked were not a result of a lacking plot, but rather of a full one. The messages and ideas proposed in the film made me ask questions about my perspective on things, and how I’m living my life and will in the future. I see this as a win for those who created it. They had the ability to alter my mindset and perspective, as a viewer. It can be hard to mix comedic and serious tones without undermining the latter. The fact that this movie managed to create a perfect balance, between those two factors, is a very impressive feat. Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Isaac) isn’t a particularly comedic character, but those around him often make jokes at his expense. The contrast between Llewyn and the other character’s emotions often made me feel conflicted about whether to laugh or keep feeling empathethic for him. Aditionally, this movie did something new. Success stories are appealing to us as humans. We tend to enjoy seeing other people achieve things that we want to achieve. The story of Llewyn Davis, however, is a story all about failure and depression. It was a breath of fresh air to see a movie that wasn’t afraid to tell the (unfortunate) truth.
Oscar Isaac creates a beyond realistic portrayal of a burnt out man, clinging onto one last bit of hope. It is clear that his character was going through a state of depression. His eyes were half closed, mostly for the second half of the film, and he mentions being tired numerous times. The depression is also shown through the cool tone that was likely used to edit the footage in post-production. After watching this movie for the first time, I had to search up whether Llewyn Davis was a real person. The depth and emotion he brought to the character is a huge part of why I love the movie so much. Even though Llewyn Davis was not a real man, he represents those like him, musicians who could not fulfill their dreams. The tone makes it feel almost like a warning, a cautionary tale, at times. The movie follows Llewyn around on his travels, so it is safe to assume that the interactions shown are from his perspective. His interactions with Jean Berkey (played by Carey Mulligan) are largely negative, with a lot of profanity aimed in Llewyn’s direction. I concluded that this was perhaps Llewyn’s ‘overexaggerated’ version of the truth. The same could be said for many other events throughout the movie, as his interpretation could be warped by his mental state at the time.
In the last quarter of the movie, we really witness an explosion. The grief and depression finally get a good grip on Llewyn. He expresses interest in playing at one of Bud Grossman’s venues, but is rejected. Mr. Grossman tells Llewyn he should get back together with his partner, which he responds to with ‘That’s good advice’, meaning he obviously interpreted/twisted it as a suicide joke. This is one of my favourite moments in the movie, as it shows the ‘dark-comedy’ mixture perfectly. He attempts to rejoin the merchant navy, like many told him to do previously, but runs into issues with licenses are permits etc. Like many of us end up doing in real life, he keeps running around in circles. The final scene, is the exact same scene as shown in the beginning of the movie, except we see him play one more song: Fare Thee Well. This is the same song he used to play with Mikey when he was alive. We then see something that is critical to this movie’s message. We see Bob Dylan’s shadow. The two performers both played at the Gaslight, but one was picked over the other. The reality of the music industry. Of course, Bob Dylan is the only real person in this scenario but as stated previously, Llewyn Davis represents all those performers who were left in the shadows.
This movie is quite heavy, but that is part of the appeal. It has a wonderful soundtrack and even more outstanding cinematography. The film was a pleasure to watch, and I will gladly re-watch it in the future. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to connect with a character or gain a new perspective.
– The Whiz