The Movie You’ll Only Enjoy If You Don’t Believe In Happy Endings

April 6, 2017

|Daniel Morales Olea

 Success is difficult to achieve or keep up. Self-help gurus will say it’s a state of mind, but in the world of creativity, it’s a little more complex than that. Achieving success means finding people to represent your art, whether they’re producers, scouts, agents, or any other representative of the industry. The film Inside Llewyn Davis explores what it means to be successful in the music industry. Yet behind that first obvious layer, there is a deeply philosophical reflection.

The story begins with Llewyn Davis (played brilliantly by Oscar Isaac) in his natural habitat of a New York City bar. We are then taken into the past to see how we cannot escape our fate no matter how much we try. As much as he tries, the musician can’t seem to catch a break. Any one of us can identify with the character’s ethic to stay true to his art while also having to make ends meet. This is a landscape where hard work does not necessarily entail success.

Llewyn Davis Doomed Character Coen Brothers

At first glance we’ll notice that Davis is not the best guy in the world. He might pay for an abortion, but he’ll have acquired the money through shady transactions. He only approaches his family to ask for money, and also loses and abandons cats left and right. The Coen brothers have created in Llewyn one of the most complex characters in their entire career. Neither hero nor antihero, he lives in the in-between place of dramedy. We might see parts of ourselves throughout his journey, followed by a “but I’d never do something like that.”

Since the story is focused on a folk music lover living in New York in the sixties, it’s almost impossible not to see the similarity with a recent recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The film resides in an atmosphere of anyone who’s dreamed of finding immortality through their art. Nothing is promised in real life, so we can only hope to achieve pieces of our dreams. Llewyn Davis had some success, but now faces a solo record that just isn’t working. He’s come to a point where he’s watching his dream sink into the abyss.

Llewyn Davis Doomed Character

Hollywood has told us that sacrifice, accompanied by practice and talent, creates success.  But the Coens turn their protagonist into Sisyphus, pushing a rock all the way to the top only to have to start all over again, hoping it might work out this time.

This is not a new concept, yet it’s one of the best films from the twenty-first century. Through little details, the film takes a melancholy turn where we find ourselves forgiving the musician for his mistakes. Because, for all his good intentions, Llewyn Davis finds a way around the fact that he ignores having a son he doesn’t know, abandons a man in a state of overdose, and only cares about his family when he's short out of cash.

If there’s one thing the Coens are good at is telling an original story in a majestic way through using all the available tools at their disposal.

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Translated by María Suárez

Daniel Morales Olea

Daniel Morales Olea