Hailing from Paterson, New Jersey and also sharing its name, Paterson (Adam Driver) works as a bus driver whose daily schedule and route extends beyond his job. If you think this doesn’t sound particularly exciting, then you’d be right. Speed, this is not. He walks the same way to work, drinks the same beer in the same bar and eats lunch in the same spot. But this adherence to routine allows Paterson to focus on his one true passion: poetry. What the film lacks in excitement it more than makes up for in intrigue, and this film finds it in the minutiae. Paterson is a modern day Flâneur, who travels the city observing the urban experience and finding inspiration therein.
Adam Driver is unusually understated for anyone who is accustomed to seeing him losing his shiz as Adam in Girls or going H.A.M. with his lightsaber in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and it’s a testament that he holds the screen for nearly every frame of the film. We first see him pore over the intricate details of a matchbox, and his poetry later evolves from the mundane to the metaphysical. He becomes more attuned to his surroundings and starts to notice rhymes and recurring themes in the world around him. Until suddenly, all of this comes crashing down when…actually, I exaggerate; Paterson reflects life and his life continues on and on, round and round.
The absence of a tag line that might detract from the title speaks volumes about the nature of Paterson, as this film is as much about the life of the city as it is the life of the man. Writer/Director Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai) masterfully lingers on the details of the city that often go unnoticed: feet swinging to and fro inches from the floor, bubbles clinging to the side of a beer glass and overheard conversations that pull out of earshot just before the punchline. Like Paterson himself, the audience is left scouring for clues and trying to find the poetic in the everyday.
That’s not to say the film has perfect form, however. As Paterson’s wife, Golshifteh Farahani’s dialogue clangs awkwardly and seems excessively expositional whilst their relationship lacks chemistry and is never truly believable. Never is this more evident that when Driver’s character sits back and indulges her every creative whim and fad. “Yes, Mrs Paterson”, comes his answer (Kevin and Perry reference there for the 90’s kids).
The score, again by Jarmusch along with Carter Logan and Sqürl feels like a fully-fledged character, jarringly adding tension where there doesn’t seem to be any. You’d be forgiven for thinking Paterson was about to go all Zodiac killer on someone during his first walk to work, based on the sonic sense of foreboding. The score swings from murderous to Eastern mysticism to moments of enlightenment and this aids the film in achieving a genuine life affirming moment by the denouement.
To label it as a comedy is akin to The Martian being a musical, but it is not “averse” to raising a chuckle. Sorry. Is it a Saturday night movie? Of course not. But this will certainly improve your Sunday.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Jim Jarmusch
STARS:Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani
Extras include a Q&A with Adam Driver which is an enjoyable yet rough around the edges interview which concretes Driver as articulate and considered. At just shy of twenty minutes though this stops short of being insightful and adds little other than endearing you to the oft aloof Driver. Alongside a theatrical trailer which highlights the humorous and Also by Jim Jarmusch, a trailer reel of the director’s previous features, this just scrapes out of Vanilla territory.