Jim Jarmusch’s latest film, Paterson, is about a bus driver named Paterson in the city of Paterson, New Jersey. The film is about a week in the life of the poetry loving bus driver and his relationship with others, such as his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) who is a stay-at-home artist.
Paterson isn’t a film for someone looking for a story in the traditional sense, anyone wishing or looking for something with a standard narrative with three acts should look elsewhere. Instead it is beautifully measured and crafted character study following Paterson for a week of his life as he drives a bus through the streets of Paterson, listening in to the conversations of his passengers. His life is one of routine, he wakes up at a similar time every day, he walks to work, does his job, returns home, and walks the grumpy looking English bulldog whilst stopping at a bar for a quiet drink.
Adam Driver is excellent in the lead role, despite it not being a showy or dramatic performance it’s a captivating one from Adam Driver whose poetry writing bus driver’s interactions with friends and members of the public (including a would be rapper and a dog loving gangbanger) make for compelling and often humorous viewing. One of the things that works well in the film is the lives of others in the film, you almost yearn to know more about the lives of the people of Paterson merely from the brief interactions Paterson has with the locals. Even though Paterson’s life is central to the film, it gives the impression that there are many others stories worthy of following.
On the more negative side, an issue with the film is the character of Laura, she’s presented as someone who’d rather stay at home pursing things she likes and wastes time painting circles on shower curtains. Apart from being immensely annoying, her lack of responsibility and lack of any grasp of reality just makes her seem immature, and a poor ditzy caricature of a sweet but ditzy woman. This left a negative effect on what should have been a tender relationship between Paterson and Laura, instead it ended up being the least interesting aspect of the film.
The city of Paterson is looking a bit run down with its boarded up businesses and grimy streets, but there are places of beauty and the city’s pride in its identity and heritage is very infectious, making the viewer affectionate to the city and the people within the city. The film’s blissful simplicity makes for a thoughtful film.