Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis comprises two very essential aspects about the protagonist, Llewyn, a fictional 1961 folk singer. To begin with, he’s quite talented. Perhaps mediocre, perhaps not the best of his generation, but well above-average, with a great voice and a never-say-die spirit. On the other hand, he is an ungrateful pile-on who burdens his friends with his vagabond ways, crashing on other people’s couches because he needs a roof over his head, at the same time, ruining get-togethers with his sometimes severe outbursts.
The film’s story gently caresses your artistic soul just like a favorite song would and manages to create an emotional connection. You get a warm feeling that promises to linger on, long after the final notes have been played in this 105-minute long film. Some aspects may be a tad difficult to fathom, with regards to Oscar Issac’s character, why Llewyn’s reaction is unpredictable. Overall, the Coen brothers yet again give the viewers a troubled character you may love to hate. It is a wonderfully composed emotional story that flows in the simplest manner.
The film chronicles a week in the life of a failed singer in the year 1961 who performed with Mike, his musical partner who had committed suicide. Post his passing, Llewyn finds himself turned into a rather reluctant traveler who meets an orange tabby cat (originally the Gorfiens’), who had escaped when he was setting foot on a journey at the beginning of the film. The cat revisits him time and again. In the meanwhile, a very commitment-phobic Llewyn finds himself building a relationship with another living being. The beauty, is that the cat’s name is not known, it is just the sense of belonging that the animal has with Llewyn which is moving. If you must wonder what the name of the cat actually is, it is revealed to be Ulyssees in the ending moments of the film. As Llewyn walks out of the Gorfiens’ house just like he had at the beginning of the film, only this time, he doesn’t let the cat escape from the apartment. On the street outside the apartment, he gazes at a poster of Walt Disney’s The Incredible Journey, as he wonders about the number of times he saw an orange cat during his journey, his odyssey (5 points to anyone who can get the connection).
With a good character in place, an orange cat and a few folk songs that will linger in your mind long after the film’s over, the Coen brothers have created an authentic portrait of the joy, the anxiety and the angst of an artist’s life. The film is funny, sad and at the same time, very human. For some of us who may have at some point in our lives envisioned a career where we wanted to pursue our creative interests, or maybe had taken that leap (of faith), then the film is sure to strike the chords of the heart. There is a recognition of truth here. And it’s not truly a happy one. This soulful, lyrical film is best enjoyed by embracing it like a sweet, sad dream. Upon awaking, this mythical place will have faded into nothingness forever.