Paterson Review

Paterson Review
80%Overall Score

In a year marred by a seemingly endless flood of bad news, Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson seems like a beacon of light in dark times. Adam Driver is Paterson, a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey (yes, really). In his spare time, Paterson writes poetry inspired by his purposefully mundane city, as Jarmusch is keen on the concept of finding beauty in everyday places (think a slightly more nuanced approach to the plastic bag in American Beauty). Paterson possesses a persistent, yet never obnoxious or over the top optimism; it feels natural, and courses through this lovely, charming little film.

paterson1The film unfolds over a week, following Paterson on a day-to-day basis. His life is one of constant repetition: he gets up, heads to work, writes poetry whenever he has free time, returns home to his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), walks his dog and visits his local bar before going to bed and starting all over again. Jarmusch is something of a master at making the banal aspects of life feel compelling, and Paterson is no exception. It is no small feat to make watching a man drive a bus essential viewing, and at its best, Paterson is a mesmerising character study. Adam Driver delivers a winning performance as the titular character. It is such a remarkable, lived-in performance that it seems as is Driver himself has lived this exact life before. So much can be gleaned from such few words, and more and more detail will likely reveal themselves in repeat viewings.

Paterson is especially wonderful when it deviates from its routine. One afternoon, Paterson stumbles upon a young girl waiting for her mother. The two strike up conversation, and it turns out she is also a poet. It is such a tender, surprising moment, and really highlights Jarmusch’s ability to get so much from his actors with minimal dialogue. It is one of the best scenes of the year, and it highlights everything that is great about the film.

paterson2For a film that is so committed to exploring naturalism and the unexpected glory within it, the film takes a somewhat bizarre turn. It heavily foreshadows an event that seems manufactured and out of place in the universe Jarmusch has created, and it detracts from the films authenticity. Far more troubling however, is a strange dichotomy between Paterson and his wife Laura. It feels as if Paterson’s artistic dreams are meant to be taken with the utmost seriousness, while Laura comes across as foolish and naïve for having similar goals. While Paterson waxing poetic is given an air of authenticity and respect, Laura’s desire to be a famous country artist feel laughable in comparison. It lends an uncomfortable air to moments that should be loving and tender, and it is a baffling decision to treat Laura with less dignity than her husband.

Still, despite its issues, Paterson is an engrossing experience. Driver has delivered a career-best performance in a career filled with great ones. Jarmusch so beautifully evokes the poetry in everyday life and brings out the wonder in routine. Paterson is optimistic, lovely, and endlessly charming, and its one of the most fascinating films of the year.

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