Inside Llewyn Davis


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis
"The pace may seem deliberate but the Coens obviously want us to uncover the character's layers gently rather than him being delivered ready-made."

The air of anticipation around any new offering from Ethan and Joel Coen always whets the senses in advance - and Inside Llewyn Davis, presented in the Cannes official Competition, does not disappoint.

The central character of Llewyn Davis (a mesmerising performance from Oscar Issacs) and the background of the Sixties folk scene around New York's Greenwich Village, provides fertile territory for the Coens to pursue their trademark quirkiness and appreciation of the lot of losers.

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Davis is a typical Coen anti-hero - a seemingly decent and ordinary man who has the whole world conspiring against him - and then some - as he arrives at a personal crossroads. He is trying to eke out a living as a solo musician after a moderately successful duo has split for reasons that become clearer as the narrative progresses. He cadges money from friends and crashes on their couches with varying degrees of irritation.

Reminiscent in parts of O Brother, Where Art Thou? but with a much more contained canvas, the form is part road movie and part redemptive exploration as Davis attempts to get his life in order, not least dealing with fellow folk artist Jean, played by Carey Mulligan, who tells him she is pregnant with his child (despite being married to her musical partner Jim, played by Justin Timberlake). Throw in a running gag with a friend's cat, which escapes and has to be rescued and repatriated, an agent without any funds to pay him and a fraught wintry journey to Chicago with a monosyllabic Garrett Hedlund at the wheel and an incontinent John Goodman in the back and you can appreciate why Davis becomes increasingly desperate and crest-fallen.

The pace may seem deliberate but the Coens obviously want us to uncover the character's layers gently rather than him being delivered ready-made. Their attitude to Davis is one of compassion - he would have been so easy to mock.

As a portrait of the way talent will not necessarily find its way out over personal short-comings this has plenty of charm and idiosyncrasies to make even the most cynical begin to melt.

There's an authentically lively soundtrack supervised by musician T-Bone Burnett.

The worldwide release date has been scheduled for later in the year with a US opening slated for December 6.

Reviewed on: 19 May 2013
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One week in the life of a talented, failed singer/songwriter in Greenwich Village, New York, in the Sixties
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Read more Inside Llewyn Davis reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray **1/2

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Writer: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Starring: Oscar Issacs, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund

Year: 2013

Runtime: 104 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

O Brother, Where Art Thou?