“Paterson”, the beguiling new film from Jim Jarmusch, is certain to be criticized by some as slow and mundane. They wouldn’t be wrong. But the great joy of the film lies in Jarmusch’s unfettered assurance in his story and in the way it should be told. And when a true craftsman is confident in what he’s creating, you can bet there is purpose and meaning hidden in the film’s every corner. So it becomes our duty to look deeper into the supposed minutia and see what he is trying to convey. That’s always been part of the allure of Jarmusch’s films.
“Paterson” is no different. It’s a cinematic poem about a poet and the everyday life that inspires his poetry. To understand the film we must understand the man. And to understand the man we must understand his life. To do that Jarmusch takes us through seven ordinary days for a man named Paterson (played by a perfectly subdued Adam Driver), a bus driver from (poetically) Paterson, New Jersey.
Paterson’s life is one of routine. Each morning he wakes up around 6:15, snuggles with his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), and eats a bowl of cereal before walking to work. When he gets home they have dinner then he walks their cantankerous English bulldog Marvin (an absolute scene-stealer). While out, he stops at a corner bar where he treats himself to one beer. We usually leave him staring into his half-empty or half-full mug, depending on how his day went. The next morning this creature of habit gets up and does it all over again.
But it’s the spaces in between this daily routine that give the film life – the collections of seemingly small things that make even the most ordinary day unique. Jarmusch fills these spaces with an assortment of the simplest conversations, observations, and interactions. He never feels compelled to manufacture melodrama or conflict. Instead he allows life to happen without any dramatic prodding. And it’s these modestly presented moments that give Paterson his identity.
With his soulful face, tempered emotions and unassuming presence, Driver couldn’t be better suited for Jarmusch’s low-key vision. His Paterson eases through life, accepting and embracing what it has to offer. That mindset feeds into his poetry which he pieces together during the quiet moments of his day. I’m not the guy to say whether his poems are good or not, but where they come from and what they reveal about Paterson is far more important than their quality. His poetry is a window into one of Jarmusch’s running themes – appreciation for the little things. I mean he wrote an entire poem about a box of matches.
Even his relationship with Laura reflects a gentle, relaxed perspective. They delightfully compliment one another despite their noticeable differences. Look no further than their creativity. Paterson’s poetry is personal, and he keeps it tucked away in his notebook. Laura’s creative ambitions are flaky but earnest, and she doesn’t mind sharing it with anyone. Paterson is dedicated to poetry despite his lack of confidence. Laura goes with her artistic flavor of the moment. It may be cupcakes, interior design, or country music guitar. Yet both are equally supportive of the other. Some of the film’s sweetest moments have Paterson taking in Laura’s excitement and then offering encouragement. Again, no spectacular artificial tension. Just life.
“Paterson” is indeed about appreciating the little things. It’s also about the convergence of art and everyday life. It’s even a tender story of love and contentment. As in his previous films, Jarmusch’s approach is minimalist yet subtly robust. His structure resembles stanzas of a poem, and they are filled with relaxed easygoing rhythms that sweep you through from start to finish. You’ll notice other Jarmusch signatures – his quiet off-beat sense of humor, his compelling use of location, and the fascinating mellow harmony with which he works. If you are a fan of his films like I am, “Paterson” will be an absolute delight.
VERDICT – 4.5 STARS
This has got to be one of the most easygoing, relaxing films I’ve ever seen. It was so content in showing the beauty in a simple, small town life, that it just felt like home to me. Despite an obvious lack of plot, I could watch this one over and over again.
Same here. It’s a beautiful movie in its own weird little way. Jarmusch is a fascinating filmmaker to me.
I definitely want to see this. It’s Jim Jarmusch. He just makes great films. I like what he does as he’s someone that is interested in the ordinary and make it extraordinary. I also want to see his doc on The Stooges.
Great description of Jarmusch. I love what he does and his dedication to his particular form of filmmaking. It’s quite unique and he’s never felt the compulsion to go big budget. He knows the kind of films he wants to make and he makes them.
I am such a fan of Adam Driver. Paterson itself sounds like yet another good decision from him. Great review!
Driver has really grown on me. This is a very strong performance. So understated and authentic. You really should give this one a look.
Hello! I got nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award so, it being a bit of fun, I’ve nominated you! Do check out your nomination, I’d love to see your answers to my questions! Keep up the great work! https://thefilm.blog/2017/02/22/the-mystery-blogger-award-nomination/
Thanks so much. Appreciate it!
My review will be up soon, but I thought this was a very boring film which didn’t move me at all. I know I’m in the minority, but I simply couldn’t connect…
I can see that reaction. I adored it to the point of it being in my Top 10 from last year (if I had seen it in time). For me it is a cinematic poem in itself and I really went for it.
Intriguing review, Keith. I knew little about it and Jim Jarmusch. Thanks for the tip.
Thanks Cindy. It’s an odd movie but I say that as a compliment. Would really be interested in your take on it.
I hope we can have a good conversation about it in the future!
Great review! I really want to see this. I hope I get the chance soon.
I hope so too. It would have made my Top 10 if I had seen it in time. Soooo good especially once you fall into Jarmusch’s strange rhythm.
Since I loved Only Lovers Left Alive so much I think I’ll really get along with this. Plus I’m really digging Adam Driver these days. The kid is ubiquitous and rightfully so. An extremely talented actor. The way you describe Paterson really motivates me to see it!
It’s so good man. I can understand people not liking it, but once you fall in with its rhythm I think the perspective really changes. I watched it once and knew I liked it but didn’t quite know why. I watched it a second time and it all came together beautifully. Can’t wait to read your take on it.
If we ever get the movie I’ll surely write something! 🙂
I’m thinking by this point it should be hitting BluRay soon
Nice review, buddy, and I’m glad you like this one. Like you I saw it after doing my end of year list, and I’m going to revise mine as a result as this’ll be in the top ten. It’s unspectacular but still a real pleasure to sit through. I love all the dots and patterns that appear in their house!
Oh yes! His wife’s infatuation with black and white. Subtly hysterical. Man I loved this movie.
Keith, are you familiar with Iranian director Asghar Farhadi? I recently watched one of his films “About Elly” and it also stars Golshifteh Farahani. She was incredible in that. Maybe because it’s still so fresh in my mind, but something about this review made me think of it. Maybe your brief mention of pacing or the director’s minimalistic approach…I’d like to see Paterson one day. Great review!
Farhadi is one of my favorite working directors! So glad to hear you watched “About Elly”. I adore that film and it made my Top 5 from two years ago. You should look up “A Separation” and “The Past”, two other Farhadi films that speak to his genius.
I have to go check out that post! And yes, I do intend on seeing his other films.
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