From the opening seconds of Paterson, we are immediately put inside the head of the film’s eponymous character, a poetry writing bus driver, played with subtle brilliance by Adam Driver.
The film begins when Paterson wakes up on a Monday morning and ends when he wakes up again in the same place 7 days later. What happens to Paterson over the duration of the week is both ordinary and extraordinary, a seemingly normal week peppered with small moments of humanity, beauty and poetry. It is in these moments that Paterson shines.
Jarmusch seems determined to avoid unnecessary exposition, not having his characters say anything that could otherwise be shown visually
Seemingly without a plot, the film seems content to follow Paterson, and his thoughts, wherever they go. What allows the film to wander through its lead character’s thoughts so effectively and coherently can be attributed to fantastic direction from Jim Jarmusch. Jarmusch seems determined to avoid unnecessary exposition, not having his characters say anything that could otherwise be shown visually. The opening shots tell us plenty of relevant information about Paterson – he’s very well read, he used to be in the military, he has a dog – without saying a single word.
Some of the films finest moments come when Jarmusch simply lets the camera observe and listen to the word around its lead character, as he observes and listens to the world around him. Ostensibly biennial snippets of conversation between passengers on the bus become tiny windows into their lives as we sit back and listen, mirroring the film’s protagonist.
The main soundtrack to the film is the sounds of life around Paterson
Though a minimal and un-intrusive score does appear from time to time, the main soundtrack to the film is the sounds of life around Paterson. The cinematography is great, especially when it comes to the light, airy outdoors shots seen when Paterson sits outside and writes poetry during his lunch break. All in all, Jarmsch is able to create an enthralling and captivating film about nothing in particular, which is no small feat.
All of this would likely fall flat if we weren’t given a character who is immediately sympathetic and likable – clearly defined by his love of people and of poetry, his generosity and his modesty. Driver’s performance as Paterson is nothing short of flawless.
Paterson’s character comes through in his quiet moments of compassion and empathy; as he stops to keep a girl company as she waits for her mother outside a factory, when he pauses to give change to a homeless man or when he peaks round the door of a dry cleaners to give encouragement to an aspiring rapper.
For audiences who crave a change of pace from the modern oversaturated blockbuster, Paterson is a welcome breath of fresh air
The most tender and affecting moments of Paterson come in the form of his interactions with his girlfriend Laura (played by Golshiftah Farahani), who herself is extremely creative, constantly embarking on artistic, musical and culinary projects. Once again Paterson’s affection for her is reflected in his poetry throughout the film. Without compelling characters like these (and many others) the film would struggle to hold an audience’s attention over its 2 hour run time, however Paterson and the people in his life are remarkably engaging to simply observe.
Overall, Paterson is a unique and life-affirming film, remaining truly gripping throughout without rushing anything. Due its leisurely pacing, content (or lack thereof) and run time, Paterson will not be for everyone. However, for audiences who crave a change of pace from the modern oversaturated blockbuster, Paterson is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani
Run Time: 118 minutes