Despite the wide variety in their work, you pretty much know what you’re getting with a Coen brothers film. Unquestionably amongst the most unique and distinctive voices in world cinema, they seem to bounce effortlessly between genres and time periods while still somehow maintaining a certain feel to all their movies. Never entirely straightforward, they like to push envelopes a little in terms of narrative technique, but always manage to keep their sense of humour intact enough to avoid accusations of pretentiousness.

One of the many things they do very well is evoke a very specific time and place. Their period-specific work is always meticulously detailed, not just in their dialogue (something that always sparkles) but in their production design, visual style and most notably their soundtrack. It’s with that latter point they excel themselves here, perhaps unsurprisingly given that their latest is a film about a luckless folk singer, whom we only ever get to know and really appreciate when he is performing his work.

Otherwise this is much of their usual preoccupations – the hopeless hubris of artists, the uncaring gaze of fate and the struggle of ordinary men who want to be extraordinary. It’s also beautifully shot as ever, even without their regular DP Roger Deakins, with the whole thing draped with a washed-out palette evoking a softly melancholic mood. It very neatly shows how being a successful artist isn’t really about talent at all, rather a strange mix of being in the right place at the right time and making concessions to commercialism. Which the Coens themselves have made an extraordinary career out of.

Are the Coens the best Screenwriters Alive?9
Possibly, But More Importantly, This Film Has a Funny Cat8
And Folk Songs From an Era Before They Got Annoying8
And a Brilliant Cameo from a Music Icon at the End8
It's Also Profoundly Depressing Viewing for Any Musician/Actor/Artist4
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
Bechdel Test Failures
  • None of the female characters talk to each other
7Overall Score

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