A heartbreaking story of beauty and failure

Dark but beautiful, “Inside Llewyn Davis” tells the story of struggling musician Llewyn Davis who, try as he might, could never strike the right chord.


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Mary Strother, Writer

It begins with a song. The tune is melancholy, yet with something sweet in the delivery, true harmony in the mixture of guitar and voice. A true folk song for a folk era; the title card reads 1961. Instantly we are transported into another world, one of a perennial wanderer and his struggle to get by when nothing seems to go his way. This is “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a struggling musician, failing to make it as a solo artist in New York City at the height of the bohemian folk movement. The death of his former musical partner leaves him strung out and hopeless, unable to cope with feelings of loss and resentment. He makes no money from his ventures at a small record company, and spends his time couchsurfing, inevitably forcing all his friends to resent him for his selfish and pessimistic nature. After one too many of these confrontations, Davis takes to the road for an unfulfilling shot at fame with legendary manager Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham.) Along the way, confined to a car with a strange cast of characters, he finds himself in a rest stop bathroom where a simple pencil engraving transfixes him. “What are you doing?” the note reads, and we see the camera pan to Llewyn’s face as the true meaning washes over him. What is he doing with his life?

Although bleak, depressing, and at times downright foul in its use of language, this film contains a deeper message. The audience, and in turn Llewyn, learn that he has no lack of talent — just some lack of heart. In what could easily be classified as the most important line of the film, Bud Grossman reminisces about another folk star, saying, “He connects with people.” And in that moment Llewyn begins to understand the reason his music career is going nowhere. He never connects with anyone — his music lacks a soul and an ability to connect to the people who hear it. If you like good cinematography, great acting and intentional character development, then this film is very much worth watching. “Inside Llewyn Davis” is a picture of the calm before the storm. It is the story of a folk singer who couldn’t quite strike the right chord, and though sometimes difficult to watch, the story is definitely worth telling.

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