← Back to Reviews

Inside Llewyn Davis

(2013, Coen)
A film with a title that starts with the letters I or J

"You don't want to go anywhere, and that's why the same shit's going to keep happening to you, because you want it to."

Set in the early 1960s, Inside Llewyn Davis follows the titular character (Oscar Isaac), an aspiring folk singer struggling to get through as a solo act after the death of his partner. Davis survives by performing small gigs while cycling through the houses of various friends and acquaintances to sleep in.

There is definitely a cyclical aspect to this film, with some events repeating themselves with sometimes similar, sometimes very different results. But that sorta mimics Davis routine of being stuck in a rut while playing cheap gigs and trying to "survive" one day at a time, all the while expecting that "miraculous" moment of success to come and push him off the wheel.

Like every Coen film, their mastery of dialogue and tone is superb. Still, this is Isaac's film all the way. His performance walks a fine line between charisma, charm and bitterness, frustration. He doesn't play Davis to the audience, but actually as a real man full of talent, but also full of flaws, insecurities, and anger. For all his artistry, he just can't help but burn bridges all around him, leaving him effectively trapped with the same shit happening to him.

But Davis woes are not entirely his fault. As is usual with the Coens, fate plays a major role in how he can't escape and have success. There is a cynical aura around some of the things that happen to him, as if a mischievous trickster was playing with his "cards", allowing the same shit to keep happening to him. What happens when we want to go somewhere, anywhere, but we can't?