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Inside Llewyn Davis - Coen Brothers deliver a new masterpiece

by Charlie Elgar. Published Wed 05 Feb 2014 22:44

Delivered in the Coen Brothers’ famous tragicomic style, the story of Llewyn is ultimately one of failure – something viewers may not necessarily be used to.

Set during the early 1960’s in Greenwich Village, we peer through the clouds of fog and cigarette smoke to view Llewyn over the course of a week, as he rather desperately searches for a break in the world of folk music.

The premise of this film sets it up to be a motivational journey to success, but the Coens steer away from this idyllic ending in quite a refreshing way, scrapping the ‘success at the end of the road’ conclusion, and replacing that with a rather sharp portrayal of what life is really like.

Life is lonely for Llewyn – apart from a stray cat, it appears that his life contains few stable relationships. Spending most nights on a couch with very little money in his pockets seems to take its toll as he slowly begins to give up the dream. Added to this, not only does he find out that he could possibly have a 2 year-old child somewhere, he may have also got his friend Jean pregnant - the role of which played by a rather feisty, fierce-eyed Carey Mulligan.

Along with the delicate filming and articulate aesthetics we undoubtedly expect from the Coen Brothers, the overall ‘folk’ theme is consistently driven through the entirety of the film with a somewhat comforting soundtrack. Not only does it comfort the viewer but it also highlights the importance and possible necessity of music in the life of Llewyn.

There is a masterful use of de ja vu in the film, with the opening scene identically repeated towards the end.

The film is rounded off nicely with this thoughtful technique as it highlights Llewyn’s slow and almost non-existent progression from when we first set eyes on him. We may find ourselves wondering what the overall plot of the film is, especially as he is still quite a way from his ultimate goal – however, according to the Coen brothers’ themselves there is no real ‘plot’. Interpret it how you wish.

Throughout the film Davis throws numerous reasons at us to dislike him, yet his persistence and dry wit as a character have quite the opposite effect as we find ourselves continuously drawing closer to him the more his journey progresses.

Our star in search of a break gradually becomes wearier and wearier, as he himself explains – “I’m tired and it’s not going anywhere”.

The Coens use pathetic fallacy nicely throughout the film, with the weather that constantly thwarts his journey’s representing the barriers he faces on his search for stardom.

Ultimately this film is a success. Oscar Isaac puts in a performance worthy of multiple awards, coupled by a great supporting cast that provide a sturdy basis for the main character to excel and shine.

Arguably in quite a brutal way, this film doesn't sugar-coat the trepidation an individual would face pursuing such a career. The Coen Brothers express a satirical realism that we are familiar with in previous work – a novel technique that sets them aside from the rest.


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