“I'm tired. I thought I just needed a night's sleep but it's more than that.”
I used to hate the winter. I still do, but I used to, too. When I was younger, my mother told me that being cold in the winter is one of the worst things that could happen to a person. I didn’t really care to understand her then. My little, unripe brain chalked it up as her cruel excuse to outfit me in the most bloated, puffiest, spongiest, brightest jacket made possible by the Gap. I used to hate puffer jackets. I still do, but I used to, too.
Winter and sombreness go hand-in-hand, especially in the 1960s folk scene in New York City where The Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) is set. Watching it in the only indie theatre (a tiny, unassuming screening room above a bookstore) in my small hometown, I couldn’t help but notice that Llewyn Davis, played masterfully by Oscar Isaac, is constantly shivering, continually borrowing coats, and always in search of the next warm couch to crash on – the quintessential struggling musician. When you watch the film, you enter Llewyn’s trials and tribulations as he endures through heartache after heartache. He’s got to be a Top Five Bum in all of cinema, at least. The most painful part of this journey is that his talent is apparent, but only to us, the watchers. His audience couldn’t give less of a shit. Every authority figure possible rejects Llewyn, subjecting him to live out the same vicious cycle of “trying to make it”.
The washed-out cinematography, the endless amount of snow and slush, the melancholic folk songs — all of these factors add so much to how cold this film is and despite my misgivings about winter’s chilliness, I love this film. Nothing has ever depicted the cycle of misfortune better.
The film ends just like how it starts; Llewyn pours his heart out into the mic and into his guitar to an audience at the Gaslight Café and after his set, gets invited into the alleyway to get beaten for his earlier, brazen actions. When the credits roll, you’re left wondering if Llewyn will never get past this torturous cycle.
“Is that all to his life?”, I pondered as I left my seat and exited the theatre to the cool December air. Always wandering, always in reach, but never quite there.
Twenty-three years on this earth and I still can’t stand the winter cold. Does anyone ever get used to it?