Jim Jarmusch has always been a director who marches to the beat of his own drum, but even his most ardent fans might be surprised by how disarmingly low-key this film is.
Paterson is a detox for the soul; a lovely ode to the details in life’s routine, with complex, nuanced observations on what it means to be both creative and happy. It centres on Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver who lives in the town of Paterson, New Jersey. He lives in a small house with his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and her scene-stealing English bulldog, Marvin. Every day, he gets up at around 6am. He eats his cereal, then goes to work, lunchbox in hand. When he comes home, he straightens up his mailbox, which always slants at an odd angle. (An amusing explanation is later offered.) He then takes Marvin for a walk to the local bar; he has a beer, chats with the bartender Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley), then goes home and gets in bed, ready for the next day.
What gets Paterson out of bed in the mornings is the poetry he writes behind the wheel, or on a park bench; short, earthy meditations on important things in his life. They are quite beautiful, in their own amateur way – though crucially, Paterson keeps them hidden away in his notebook, with no apparent desire to share them with the world. Laura can’t understand this. She’s also a creative type, though one who’s attracted by the attention her creations – painted curtains, cupcakes, songs – will captivate. But she doesn’t understand the modest, reflective benefits, or internal harmony, that Paterson’s daily poem writing brings.
There is no story, so to speak, aside from occasional disruptions in the routine, instigated by a scattered assortment of Jarmuschian weirdos. But he’s similar to Richard Linklater, in that he understands that characters speak louder than plot. Paterson is a quietly fantastic character – played to perfection by Driver – whose reticence is soothing rather than annoying, like a personified version of Jarmusch’s own Zen-like creative philosophy. And there are clearly elements of autobiography here; Paterson the bus driver is Paterson the director, the watcher, the listener, the eventually artist. Gently elevating, wise, and even a little bit heart-breaking, it’s the kind of filmmaking that should be treasured.
Paterson is released nationwide on 25th November 2016.
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