Director: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Barry Shabaka Henley, William Jackson Harper, Chasten Harmon
Words: N. Scatcherd
Distilling and purifying the kind of laidback, meandering, low-key interest in the minutiae of life that all Jarmusch films engage in to various degrees, stripping away narrative urgency to the point where there isn’t even much of a narrative at all. This is a film about ‘the little things’, even more so than usual in a Jarmusch film. But while its unhurried nature – which could be interpreted as a kind of aimlessness if one was feeling unkind – may initially beg the question: “is anything actually going to happen?”, something gradually happens as you watch. You begin to smile, fondly and without cynicism, in the same way our protagonist, bus driver Paterson (Adam Driver) – who funnily enough shares his name with the city of Paterson, New Jersey in which he lives and works – smiles at the small moments of beauty, happenstance and kindness he sees around him; the things that inspire the modest, earnest poetry he pens in his ‘secret notebook’.
Paterson is played with a quiet, observant curiosity by Driver, who really is a fantastic presence. He conveys a world of emotion with one doe-eyed glance or barely suppressed chuckle. He goes to the same bar every evening and engages in friendly small talk with the barman (Barry Shabaka Henley). He walks his English bulldog, Marvin (who steals every scene he’s in) and enjoys an apparently idyllic relationship with his black-and-white obsessed, cupcake-baking girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), who harbours a dream of becoming a country singer. Her whimsical kookiness could be kind of irritating, but Farahani and Driver so well inhabit the lived-in chemistry of a couple in genuine love that it actually comes off as sincerely touching. When she talks about her dreams, bakes strange pies and paints the shower curtains in her beloved two-tone colour scheme, Paterson laughs with her, not at her; fondly, lovingly.
Paterson isn’t the kind of film you can really talk about in terms of ‘plot’, and anyway, the whole joy of it comes from allowing its gentle magic to take hold as we experience a week in the life of this humble everyman figure, enjoying the small, quiet beauties of life along with him.
Paterson is a warm, tender examination of the things it is easy to sometimes take for granted; love, humour, compassion. It leaves you with a renewed sense of optimism and appreciation for the good in every day, it’s the kind of experience everyone deserves to have every now and again.