Inside Llewyn Davis – reviews of Coen brothers' ode to folk

Jan 23, 2014

Coen brothers' bittersweet ode to the 1960s folk scene is sad, funny and utterly enthralling

What you need to know

The Coen brothers' wry take on the 1960s folk scene, Inside Llewyn Davis opens in UK cinemas this week. The film won a Grand Prix at Cannes and is in the running to win the brothers another Academy Award after No Country for Old Men.

It follows a week in the life of Llewyn Davis, a young singer in the Greenwich Village folk scene, loosely based on 60s folk musician Dave Van Ronk. It charts Davis's struggle to make it as a musician while an indifferent world and his own actions conspire against him.

Oscar Isaac stars as Llewyn Davis. With Carey Mulligan, Just Timberlake and John Goodman.

What the critics like

"Beautiful, heartfelt and utterly enthralling", Inside Llewyn Davis throbs with melancholy, says Dan Jolin in Empire. It may not be one of their easiest films to like, but it's easily one of their best.

Inside Llewyn Davis is "a perfectly pitched melancholic comedy" with an acidically funny Kafkaesque streak, says Robbie Collin in the Daily Telegraph. This is instant A-list Coens - enigmatic, exhilarating, irresistible.

It's a "sad, sometimes cruel, often hilarious" riff on life as a 60s folk musician, says Dave Calhoun in Time Out. The wonderful soundtrack of folk standards (mostly sung by the actors) lingers long in the memory.

What they don't like

"Like Llewyn, the film drifts a bit, moving episodically from song to song," says Siobhan Synnot in The Scotsman. But fortunately, these musical set pieces, curated by T Bone Burnett, are often the highlights of a film that's too chilly and remote to embrace wholeheartedly.

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