CANNES 2016 – Paterson (2016)


Director Jim Jarmusch has long been fascinated by the ethereal power of poetry; it provided a spiritual guide for William Blake on his journey through the wilderness in Dead Man, and acted as a code of honour for hired hitman Ghost Dog in The Way Of The Samurai.

In Paterson, Jarmusch’s quietly magnificent new film, poetry is an escape; a source of freedom from the mundanity of modern life. Paterson (Adam Driver) himself is a bus driver, who, by serendipitous coincidence, happens to live & work in the city of his namesake – his life marked only by an endless routine so familiar, he no longer needs to rely on an alarm clock to wake up at 6:15 each day. Every morning Paterson awakens, eats his cereal, and heads off to work, where he shepherds the city’s inhabitants along the same simple route before returning home to spend the evening having dinner with his warm-hearted wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), taking their dog Marvin for a walk, and stopping in at the local bar for precisely one beer.

It’s an existence that initially appears so empty to the viewer that it’s almost intolerable to sit through during the earlier stages. And yet, as we soon see, it is from this apparently arid lifestyle that Paterson finds his inspiration; something as small as a box of matches, or as significant as a morning kiss, providing Paterson with the stimulus for his rhythmic musings, which he recites to us with graceful sensitivity; like whispers in the wind.

Jarmusch has always been recognised for his filmic idiosyncrasies – his minimalist approach, muted style and unhurried nature, all of which are present. However, what’s distinctive here is his approach to character. It’s Paterson’s film; his name forms the title and it’s his story that we follow. But it’s Laura who’s the real centre of focus. In Golshifteh Farahani’s sublime performance are shades of someone who desperately believes in the importance of personal expression, and is aching to find an avenue from which to articulate their own. Laura’s inspirationally passionate resolve and infectious lust for life are clear, but what’s masked is a sad reality that she’s on a trajectory without direction.

What is certain is the commitment of her husband, who sincerely believes that his wife can achieve anything. As both writer and director, it’s Jarmusch who provides Paterson with the vehicle, but it’s Adam Driver who does the steering. He renders Paterson throughout with an almost impassive restraint: drifting through scenes – some important, others inconsequential – with a withdrawn distance that’s formally frustrating. Pivotally though, Driver never pushes the audience away, and softly mitigates his reticence with a warm & affable social disposition.

Those who are fans and familiar with Jarmusch’s oeuvre will find themselves on firm ground here, the director once more adopting the brooding and contemplative persona of his early work – there are clear shades of Permanent Vacation’s existential energy in Paterson’s meditative ruminations. This is a film that’s reflective, refreshing, and honest; it’s poetry in motion.

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Helen-Jean Arthur
Runtime: 113 min
Country: USA

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

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