Film Review: Inside Llewyn Davis

The latest from Coen Brothers Joel and Ethan, Inside Llewyn Davis follows the week in the life of a young folk singer, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), circa 1961, as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene. Struggling to make it as a musician, Llewyn is faced with many obstacles, many of them of his own doing, including getting between his only real friends Jim (Justin Timerlake) and Jean (Carey Mulligan).

A soundtrack can often hold the heart of a film, and that’s how Inside Llewyn Davis lured me in from the second the curtains parted. As we open to an image of Llewyn in a smokey, downbeat bar, finishing his set on stage, your breath is stolen as soon as he opens his mouth. And what a beautiful talent Oscar Isaac has, one that captured my attention immediately from his performance in last year’s 10 Years. With Mark Mumford of Mumford and Sons having given a hand in the songwriting department, as well, these songs were already determined to be topping my iTunes play count before I had even heard them. For me, the soundtrack of Inside Llewyn Davis is musical perfection.

Of course, it’s not all about the music, though, not quite anyway. Ethan and Joel Coen have recently become two of my favourite directors, as well, after a friend convinced me to watch their filmography. So I caught up just in time for this cinematic treat.

The use of low saturated colours works excellently and helps set the tone of the film straight away. There’s a lot of hope floating around these characters, but it’s more about struggle without any real successes, as we trudge alongside Llewyn, and his cat, whilst he tries to figure out where he even wants to be, let alone how to make it there.

Oscar Isaac certainly steals the show, but this film also caught my attention because of the promise of another singing performance from Carey Mulligan, after first experiencing her angelic singing abilities in Shame. Already, the cast alone is spot on for such a film. It’s funny to think that Isaac and Mulligan have previously worked together, as well, last working together in the crime thriller Drive as a married couple. Whilst their roles seem so natural in both films, there’s a huge, eye-opening contrast between them, yet each manage to break your heart in one way or another; be that from sympathy or relating to the need for acceptance, these are characters that you can’t help but have faith in. And then, of course, there’s a – relatively small – support from Justin Timberlake, which needs no further comment.

Be it because of the exceptional folk music, the genius talents of the Coen Brothers, or because we’re all struggling to find our way in life, Inside Llewyn Davis is sure to remain one of the best of 2014.

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