Some films are low on plot, but big on story; where nothing much happens in a concrete and traditional narrative sense, and instead we get a lot of rich world and characters moments that doing nothing in the world of the film almost becomes more compelling than the most twisting plotline. It’s very reflective of life, because life isn’t like a movie; it is sad but true. There isn’t an obvious plot, or clear opportunities for character development. Life generally is just made up of little moments and we all just get on with it. This is a principle behind Jim Jarmusch’s latest film, Paterson.
Essentially, not much happens in Paterson, we see the day to day life of the eponymous Paterson (Adam Driver) as he drives his bus around the city of Paterson New Jersey, writes poems (provided for the film by the poet Ron Padgett), spends time with his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), a freelance artist who has a particular obsession with making everything monochrome, and takes their highly disagreeable dog for a walk before having a single beer at the local bar to end his day and interacting with bar owner Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley) and various patrons. All days are similar, yet different. The film is ultimately a poem in and of itself, with the different days as stanzas, each with connecting themes and elements that almost serve as the rhymes and rhythms that echo back and forth.
Driver is wonderful as the title character; it’s almost a masterclass in soft understatement and absolutely enthralling to watch. Paterson isn’t a person who is vocally overt with what he’s thinking and feeling, but you’re still able to get an impression of him and his life. He’s an observer and someone who seems to take in the lives of those around him as we are taking in his life while watching the film. The most flustered we see him is when a bus problem causes a disruption to the rhythm of the day. He and wife Laura’s relationship is one of a mutual accepting each other for the various quirks, and is clearly a deeply loving one. Laura herself is a character that could easily be given over to mockery or Manic Pixie Dream Girl kook, instead there is a bemused fondness present whenever she does things like make strange foods for dinner or switch on what her “big dream” is going to be. Even when something happens towards the end of the film that is clearly a big deal for Paterson, it isn’t used for contrived conflict between the two like it could be with other films. It’s refreshing in its understated nature and quite sweet to watch.
Paterson is a soft, thoughtful, meandering film with a solid foundation of a great central performance, and lets you bask in life in all its little moments.
This film was screened as part of the London Film Festival and will be released in the UK on 25th November.