When I heard about this film, I watched the trailer and the characters looked compelling and interesting. The movie seemed to be slower paced but what I saw indicated good writing with solid acting. Instead, the film was so much more than simply good. The movie was poetry in motion and I can only hope my words do justice to the level of performance that I saw.
The film shows one week in the life of Paterson (Adam Driver) a young bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey. Beginning with Monday, each day follows the same pattern. Paterson gets up early, kisses his wife, and goes to work. He drives his bus, number 23, listening to his passengers talking and during pauses, writes poetry in the notebook that he carries with him. When Paterson comes home from work, he spends time with Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), his wife. Then, he takes Laura’s dog, an English Bulldog, Marvin (Nellie) for a walk, stopping in at his bar for a beer and observes the patrons and the owner, Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley), interacting.
Laura is a creative soul, dynamic, always in motion with one project after another. She loves Paterson’s poems and urges him to share them with the world or at least make copies of them just in case. Paterson shows quiet love in his support of her dreams and spends much of his non-driving time reading or writing his poems, a dreamer at heart.
Now all of that might not sound exciting but I promise this movie is full of the beauty in the everyday ordinary moments of life. It gives scenes where Paterson stops to listen to a rapper finding music in his words or listening to a passenger detail the life of an anarchist from Paterson the city, or when he reads his words aloud for the viewers, his poetry bursts forth like the flames of the matches he describes in one of his poems. The fabric of his life is woven onto the screen with humor, subtlety, and nuance making the characters come to life.
Not only do we see Paterson’s life but the city itself is a character in the film, with little snippets of history slipped to us in conversations or pictures on the walls of Paterson’s bar. Laura’s dreams emerge through her scenes with Paterson and slices of time where we see her creating dresses, painting, and baking. We also see that Paterson’s dreams are simpler, only wanting time with Laura and to bring his words to life. Marvin is also part of the pattern of their lives, a force that gives laughter to the audience and deserved the billing that the writer’s give in the credits of this film. Marvin ties each day together, the walk bringing Paterson back home each night to his wife.
The writing is incredible. There is a simple elegance and imagery throughout every scene. Paterson’s favorite location is a waterfall and the scenes there showcase the beauty of the city and the location. There are subtle metaphors strung through every scene. Laura loves the colors black and white. Every scene she is in showcases this, highlighting that her dynamic nature is bold and striking. Paterson loves the color blue and these softer tones are apparent in their bedroom and his writing space. One reviewer remarked that the relationship appeared uneven due to the space that Laura inhabits but I thought that it was a relationship of opposites. Laura is outgoing but sensitive to the space that Paterson needs for his writing and she gives him loving support in return for his support of her dreams. The film deftly explored the dichotomy of their relationship and there are many correlations used to emphasize their connection.
There is vision in each camera shot, as those images give you slivers of information about the characters and the city, such as highlighting a photo of Paterson as a marine or a sign of the Lou Costello Park in the city. Each image ties back to the main events of the story, like the thread in a tapestry. Even the prop department deserves kudos for finding worn books to have on Paterson’s book shelf in his writing space and creating cupcakes as elegant as Laura.
The acting was without flaw. Each scene was nuanced, the body language of the actors exquisite and even minor characters having a voice. The relationship sings in the moments between Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani. Their chemistry was real and intense even when they simply held hands. Marvin, played by Nellie, stole every scene as he knocks over the mailbox every day and tries to lead Paterson on their walks. Nellie who played him was vocal and adorable. The line, “In Memory of Nellie”, at the end of the movie, brought me to tears so rich was the dog’s role in this film that I was saddened by the passing of the dog that played the role of Marvin. Doc brought gravity to his role as the owner of Paterson’s bar as they discussed the city and famous people from their town. One final note on the acting. I did not even realize that Adam Driver was the same actor that played Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and that takes some serious talent to be such a different person that the viewer does not even recognize you.
This film is all about cycles and the beauty all around us. Each scene was a poem, like words flowing across a page, describing an ordinary love that was extraordinary in its portrayal. Every one of us lives similar patterns and every one of us can appreciate this film for the grace and charm it brings us. I cannot imagine anyone who could not connect to the simple slice of life we see in this film and I think anyone who sees it will fall in love with this sweet, charming story just like I did.
Rating: 5 stars
Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey – they share the name. Every day, Paterson adheres to a simple routine: he drives his daily route, observing the city as it drifts across his windshield and overhearing fragments of conversation swirling around him; he writes poetry into a notebook; he walks his dog; he stops in a bar and drinks exactly one beer. He goes home to his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). By contrast, Laura’s world is ever changing. New dreams come to her almost daily, each a different and inspired project. Paterson loves Laura and she loves him. He supports her newfound ambitions; she champions his secret gift for poetry. The history and energy of the City of Paterson is a felt presence in the film and its simple structure unfolds over the course of a single week. The quiet triumphs and defeats of daily life are observed, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details.
Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Helen-Jean Arthur
Directed By: Jim Jarmusch
Written By: Jim Jarmusch