Creating a deeply philosophical work celebrating the art of love and life in imagery, director Jim Jarmusch gives us a great gift, acclaimed American actor Adam Driver starring as an unpublished poetry loving bus driver named Paterson, whom he never patronises.
Paterson just happens to live in Paterson, New Jersey with his lovely wife Laura (Goldshifteh Farahani) whose name just happens to be the same as the Italian Renaissance poet Petrarch’s love, and also home of the poet Paterson most admires in the world, William Carlos Williams (1883-1963).
In the field of poetry Williams was an innovator and revolutionary figure. Paterson honours his style with his own meditative flow of words, written by hand in his secret notebook. They are words guided by the patterns of his life.
From every perspective, Paterson the movie is a true treasure; filmmaking at its very best. It is a quiet, unassuming, a wonderfully realised piece of theatre. Just like the stanzas of a poem, the movie is peppered with touches of humour, irony, real drama and pathos, emotions integral to nurturing Paterson and his daily existence.
Don’t read any more if you don’t want some spoilers.
Paterson’s poems, written for the film by the American poet Ron Padgett, are thought provoking and poignant, with their clear and precise language and description of imagery.
Paterson and his wife Laura live a quiet life together, one that is all about the rhythms encountered in daily labour and about daily living in harmony with someone you love and who also understands you completely.
Laura is played so superbly by Golshifteh Farhani, who is a shining light in the confines of her own house; creative, expressive and totally happy with whom she chooses to be.
Paterson drives his bus every day, but chooses to be a poet of the humble kind.
Paterson doesn’t own a mobile phone, doesn’t have an iPad or any sort of device that makes life easy but he’s cool with that. Laura has one, so if they need to make calls they can.
Paterson and Laura don’t live surrounded by luxury, but in a small house much like one a child would draw with a door in the middle and a window on each side. It also has a basement, a garage and a small garden with some signs of neglect.
Laura is a stay at home wife, who decorates their house continually in black and white, painting black circles by hand on white curtains, while also making black and white cupcakes to sell successfully at the Farmer’s market.
She paints the dresses she wears, changes the patterns to suit her mood and enjoys her ever-expanding experience of DIY while she daydreams.
Out the front of the house is their black letterbox on a pole, which every night on his way home Paterson after clearing it of any mail, needs to stand upright from being on a slant and pummel it back into the ground with his foot.
He has no idea how it got that way!
This simple task is but one of the items on his daily routine, which we comfortably relax and join into, enjoying the regularity of it just as much as indeed he does, punctuated as his daily life is with many different momentary concerns that are not too challenging.
This includes driving his bus along its route in a mill town, starting and finishing at the same time; writing poetry in his notebook when he can; sitting quietly eating his lunch overlooking Paterson’s picturesque Great Falls; overhearing conversations on the bus as people come and go, words that later inhabit his poetry.
Every night he walks their pugnacious bulldog Marvin (a true scene stealer), leaving him outside while stopping at the local bar for one glass of beer where Paterson is also drawn into the daily lives of those inside.
Everett (William Jackson Harper) and Marie (Chasten Harmon) nicknamed Romeo and Juliet, who are going through tough times provide both light and dark moments.
Then there’s the Barman Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley) who plays chess with himself in order to win a competition and is also hiding out from his wife.
We start at Monday morning and gently move through each day of the week with Paterson and Laura, who wake regularly each morning somewhere between 6 and 6:30 on his watch.
On the first day as she wakes she tells him of a dream she has had about twins and from then on every day either on his bus or on the street he starts observing pairs of twins, both young and old.
Adam Driver is truly awesome as Paterson, such a talented actor more or less old school but in a completely modern way. He has a relaxed and easy walk too, one that sets up a rhythm easy for us all to fall into.
He lights up the screen with intensity, in a story tailor made for his talents. All encompassing, with every muscle on his unique face and dishy eyes, Driver tells this tale softly and sweetly. You won’t be surprised to learn he gained his bus driver’s license in order to make the filming of his driving one completely authentic.
Paterson wears black and white underwear and dons the clothes Laura has ironed and laid out on the chair in their bedroom each morning ready for him to wear.
Quite understandably he revels in his constant state of bliss.
Laura asks Paterson can she order a black and white ‘harlequin’ guitar that comes complete with instructions and a DVD teaching her how to play it well, as she has ideas of perhaps even becoming a country singing star.
When it arrives she picks it up quickly, and he’s truly elated for her, happy at her daily progress.
She’s completely happy when he’s downstairs in his basement writing while she’s upstairs crafting away.
She is concerned though, that his writing should be shared with the world and extracts a promise that he will photocopy it as she’s worried about his notebook being an original.
On Friday Paterson’s bus breaks down and he’s slightly discombobulated. A passenger has to lend him a phone to call for help, which changes his routine ready for a small disaster to happen that will shake him to the core, although while outwardly only showing his now telling emotional restraint.
Meeting a poetry-loving stranger while he contemplates what happened at the place where the waterfalls, while fighting to see a new way forward, will be the key to Paterson making an all new beginning next week, when once again he will go about recapturing his own balance of work and art.
Outstanding! Basically, my movie of the year!
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017
Watch the Trailer