Paterson (Jim Jarmusch, 2016): France | Germany | USA

Reviewed by Katrina Storton. Viewed at AFI Film Festival 2016.

Paterson (2016) is the latest film by auteur director Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man, Stranger than Paradise, Night on Earth, Only Lovers Left Alive). Paterson follow’s Jarmusch’s unique style as the film is very unhurried and works in real time, lacks a clear plot and focuses more on emotions and character development.

Paterson stars Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, What if, Silence, Midnight Special) who plays a bus driver named Paterson in the city of Paterson, New Jersey. The entire film is based around a week of Paterson’s life and his mundane daily routine. Every day he: wakes up, puts on his watch, eats cereal, heads to work, writes a poem or a portion of a poem, drives his daily route picking and dropping off people, observing the city and eavesdropping on conversations, comes home, writes more poetry, has dinner, takes his dog for a walk, stops at the bar for one beer then comes home and sleeps until a new day begins again and the routine starts again.

While this doesn’t sound like much of anything worth watching from the description alone, Jarmusch works his magic and makes this simplistic story of a 9 to 5 working man truly interesting. Jarmusch perfectly captures the serenity of a small town and the residents who live in it. Jarmusch encapsulates the strange quirks of the city of Paterson through his characters. Paterson himself is plain, simple, and set in his routine. His girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) is a dreamer, she is eccentric, odd, and overly creative. When Laura mentions she had a dream about twins, Paterson begins to notice a large amount of twins on his bus every day. Another day Paterson runs into a car full of men interested in his dog and its fighting capabilities. Another night Paterson catches a rapper practicing his rhymes, Paterson is interested in the poetry of his words. Every night at the local bar, a couple’s squabble increases in drama. Fascinating things surround a not so fascinating man. His response to such odd goings-on is surprisingly relaxed and nonresponsive. The only time Paterson shows true reaction and emotion is when writing, thinking (voice over thoughts) or talking about poetry.

The true beauty of Paterson lies in the patterns of the film. There’s a calming sense that comes from routine, or the erratic and peculiar black and white patterns Laura fills their home with, even the ongoing relationship disagreements between the couple at the bar adds a sense of repetition. The slow conversations, the silent moments filled with thought, the tiny variations in each day, the repeating camera angles all contribute to the depiction of the city of Paterson that Jarmusch is trying to portray. The routine is so set that when something is different, something is foreshadowed, it is noticeable, and it stands out similar to how the little things in our own lives take our attention.

Jarmusch took a truly poetic approach with Paterson and it is very recognizable. The lack of plot, no real sense of character arc and repeating elements remind you of when life isn’t always eventful. Those times in our own lives where we get stuck in a routine and we fall into simplicity. Just because it’s simple or repetitious does not mean those aren’t beautiful times worth remembering, worth enjoying or worth relishing in.

If you enjoy Jim Jarmusch’s work, and you don’t slow dialog based films then Paterson may be for you. This film however is not recommended for those who fall asleep easily in theatres. Paterson will be out in select theatres December 28th, 2016.


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