The latest offering from revered U.S indie director Jim Jarmusch (Down By Law, The Limits of Control) is a languid, beautifully shot film which utilises his signature visual style and boasts a fine, perfectly restrained central performance from the ever brilliant Adam Driver (Girls, Star Wars: The Force Awakens).
Set in the town of Paterson, New Jersey, Driver (aptly enough) plays a bus driver, also named Paterson, who spends his days riding around town, observing the ebb and flow of daily life whilst jotting down introspective poetry in a notebook. His writing is influenced by his environment and the eclectic characters that he encounters on his route. He also finds inspiration from a tender relationship with free spirited wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). The film unfolds over a seven day period, focusing on an array of random incidents and conversations, whilst celebrating the humdrum quirkiness of life’s simplest pleasures.
In typical Jarmusch fashion, the plot is threadbare, but the characters are superbly well drawn. Each scene is cleverly composed and finely crafted. This is a smart, beautifully paced film injected with warmth, wit and humour. Driver’s performance as Paterson is exquisite. He brings a hypnotically calm, engaging and thoroughly endearing quality to the character (the exact opposite to his angst ridden maniac Kylo Ren in Star Wars). The scenes between Paterson and Laura, as well as their wonderful dog Marvin (superbly performed by British Bulldog, Nellie) are delightful. All of the characters we encounter are appealing and add a richness to proceedings. Some of the most notable include Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley), the razor sharp barkeeper who Paterson shoots the breeze with while sipping on his nightly beer and Donny (Rizwan Manji), Paterson’s world weary work colleague who recounts all of his woes to Paterson in droll, hilarious monotone. Jarmusch’s lo-fi direction is hugely effective with with minimal camera movement allowing for beautifully framed static shots. It’s rich in imagery and the script is peppered with astute, off beat dialogue. The use of poetry in the film is an essential and perfectly executed element. Inspired by his hero and fellow Paterson resident William Carlos Williams, Paterson’s poetic musings find gravitas in the seemingly mundane and ordinary. The film itself works like a poem, full of rhyme, rhythm and resonance. It’s a truly joyful experience.
As a mediation on love, life and humanity, this incisive and unique film from Jarmusch is an absolute gem. From a director who occasionally tends to be too abstruse for mainstream audiences, this may well be his most accessible work to date. It’s certainly his sweetest and most gentle. For anyone tired and weary from the turmoil, conflict and antagonism that has been a feature of life on Planet Earth during 2016, Paterson should be prescribed as an antidote. It’s a very special film indeed.