Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson stars Adam Driver’s titular character whose hidden talent for poetry elevates the repetitiveness of his everyday working class life as a New Jersey bus driver.
Taking our every day and making it magical is what this film does best. Picking apart a daily routine and elevating that life to new heights through poetic nuance makes Paterson uniquely memorable. Calming without being ponderous, creative without seeming haphazard and centred by a performance of such Zen-like assurance, repeat viewing is not only recommended but essential. My only struggle in continuing is where to begin.
Taking one week in the life of Adam Driver’s title character we are privy to a singular viewpoint, defined by repetition but subtly different each time. A creative soul hiding in plain sight etching his art on the screen in well balanced script; simultaneously theological and profound yet never dry or stuffy. Jim Jarmusch has crafted a love letter to New York poets whilst musing on the beauty of words, their meaning and power which resonates in echoes across every frame.
Both Paterson and Golshifteh Faranhani’s Laura are that rare thing in film being both positively creative and supportive of each other. There are no domestic disputes, never a crossed word and Laura does nothing but push Paterson into making his poetry available to an outside world.
Jarmusch uses handwritten words on screen whilst simultaneously, through internal monologue, illustrating what inspiration truly means. Combining that with overheard conversations which filter through from passengers on the bus, he has crafted a truly immersive but never pretentious piece of filmmaking. Symbolism is littered in a seemingly random fashion throughout Paterson, mixed in with the everyday life of our central protagonist not only to raise questions and promote debate but also I suspect for the amusement of Jarmusch himself. Other actors including Barry Shabaka Henley’s Doc and William Jackson Harper’s Everett, give strong support in broadly sketched portrayals which turn this into a true ensemble piece.
That this is a film of observation and listening rather than heavy dialogue and action is another strength which some may construe otherwise. Paterson offers up possibilities, deeper meaning, time for contemplation and taps into a sense of calm rarely captured on film. Nominated for the Palme d’Or and Cannes Jury Prize last year it possesses an ethereal quality, which quietly seeps into your soul leaving behind an indelible mark.
Numerous moments worthy of recollection sneak under the radar through snatched dialogue, perfectly exploited silences and poetry read in conjunction with imagery. Only Dead Poet’s Society and Solaris from Peter Weir and Stephen Soderbergh respectively instil a similar level of calm amongst the exploration of creativity versus humanity, even if one is concerned with the consequences of creativity when confronted with conformity, while the latter is defined by the drawbacks of infinite possibilities and dominion over death.
Finally what Jarmusch has given us through Paterson is a gentle reminder of the beauty in our everyday lives. He suggests amongst many other things that opportunity, possibility and a need to create and share our creation may not be a human instinct; but remain very much a human necessity.