Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Dir: Joen Coen & Ethan Coen
After living in Wales for nearly a decade, it frustrates me that he pronounces his own name incorrectly!
Llewyn Davis is a folk musician, who was one half of a duo, but after his musical partner committed suicide, Llewyn is left struggling to find his own place in New York’s folk music scene as a solo artist. Sofa-surfing and taking session jobs to pay the bills, he drifts in and out of peoples lives with very little direction but a lovely voice.
I’ve reviewed a few films by the Coen brothers in the past year and seen more before, this however is slightly different from some of their other work, yet holds onto a few characteristics that help to identify it, including a small appearance by John Goodman and unusual characters. It’s been nominated for just a couple of Oscars this year, for cinematography and sound mixing.
Being a film about a musician, the music ends up being quite important to the success or failure of the film. I’m not into folk, but it’s clearly very good music, and in all honesty I’m actually listening to the soundtrack right now and have been for the past few days! T Bone Burnett helped produce the soundtrack, and having previously collaborated with the Coens on ‘O Brother Where Art Thou?’ as well as working on the music for many other film and TV productions including ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Nashville’ and ‘Crazy Heart’, applying his many years of experience he has again done an excellent job. Marcus Mumford (husband of Carey Mulligan) also worked on the music and features a little on certain songs, I don’t know whether there was a strong link between he and Mulligan both working on the film, but they married shortly after.
Oscar Isaac who plays Llewyn (and in my opinion bears a striking resemblance to Jake Johnson from ‘New Girl’ and ‘Safety not Guaranteed’) carries the whole film, everyone else including Jean (Carey Mulligan, ‘The Great Gatsby’) and Jim (Justin Timberlake, ‘In Time’) are in really quite surprisingly small roles, though they could easily be of great importance. Llewyn constantly drifts through peoples lives and so there’s no other lead role, everyone in his life is there as a place to eat, a bed for the night, storing things from his past, or an acquaintance for work. Even frequent Coen collaborator John Goodman feels like he is incidentally there, playing a jazz musician called Roland Turner who Llewyn hitches a ride with. Oscar Isaac didn’t get much recognition in the major awards, maybe because his role is so understated and there are many bigger performances this year that stand out a lot more. The simple and quiet nature of the performance however is it’s strength, and goes very well with the style of music he performs which he does very well.
On the opening topic of his name, Llewyn does have a conversation with John Goodman’s character about the origin of his name, Llewyn Davis is indeed a very Welsh name, but the double ‘L’ is actually considered a distinct letter in the Welsh alphabet, and has a completely different sound to an English ‘L’, it’s a voiceless fricative sound. Anyhoo… rant over! The discussion about Welsh and Roland Turner’s bad experience with a rarebit is pretty funny and almost makes up for Llewyn consistently getting his own name wrong!