Matisse van Rossum’s review published on Letterboxd:
Joel and Ethan Coen are two of my favorite living directors and an absolutely incredible artistic duo. I haven't seen their entire filmography, but of the films I've seen, I've disliked none of them. Their newest masterpiece, Inside Llewyn Davis has skyrocketed to the top, vying with No Country for Old Men for my favorite Coen Bros. film. A beautifully sincere and tragic odyssey, Inside Llewyn Davis follows the day to day struggles of a folk musician as he drifts from couch to couch, gig to gig, just trying to make ends meet and striving for some sort of fulfillment after the death of his music partner. It's a gorgeously intimate film that follows the titular Llewyn Davis in close up, never leaving him and allowing us, as the audience, to truly get inside him, mind, heart, and soul.
I call this film an odyssey, because that's what it is, and that's certainly what it feels like, but unlike Homer's epic, it's on a small scale and it's an odyssey that never ends. It's a continuous, soul crushing cycle, where hours pass but feel like days and days pass and feel like weeks. One of my favorite moments is when Llewyn says, "I forgot. It feels like it's been a long time, but it's only been a couple of days." And you feel this exactly while watching the film. There's no concrete concept of time, giving it an almost surreal atmosphere, but one that (in contradiction) is firmly grounded in bleak, cold reality.
Inside Llewyn Davis is distinctly a Coen Brothers film, but is unlike anything they've ever done. Their same perfect visual sense is there, as is the tight, clean script, but there's this added sense of tenderness that permeates the film, bringing character intimacy to a whole new level, previously unreached by the Coens. And this is masterfully portrayed by Oscar Isaac, whose performance is a close to absolutely perfect as it could possibly be. Llewyn is kind of an asshole, but his pain and exhaustion is so palpable that your heart aches for him. It's a story that is discouraging to say the least, especially for a young artist like myself, but you never lose your sense of optimism and hope that things will get better for Llewyn. And Oscar Isaac is Llewyn Davis. I never for a minute felt like I was watching an actor playing a role, even though my logical mind knew I was. His sheer authenticity is astounding. Backed by a strong supporting cast, featuring marvelous performances from Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, and Carey Mulligan, this film is full of acting powerhouses.
I need to bring this already lengthy review to a close, even though I there's so much more I could talk about, but I can't sign off without mentioning the soundtrack. Inside Llewyn Davis features one of the most beautiful, sincere, heartwrenching, poignant, and profound soundtracks I've heard in a really long time. I had to own it the second I got home from the theater, and sure enough, I do now. Each song, especially those performed by Oscar Isaac as Llewyn, have meaning as deep and wide as the ocean. Truly, truly beautiful, which is how I would describe this film in general. I already want to see it again. Well done, Coens. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go listen to some Iron & Wine and hold my cat.