Small-town American life has inspired filmmakers for over a century. In the process, it has created a storytelling tradition that counters the big-city syndrome of so many New York and Los Angeles–set films. With Paterson, Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive) brings his unique observational eye to both a character and a community that bear the same name, hinting at ideas of continuity and stability. Jarmusch has previously focused on the quotidian; his films are quiet and reflective, and in many respects cut against the grain of most contemporary American filmmaking. Here he has created a film that gently transforms the ordinary into the transcendent.
Paterson (Adam Driver, Tracks, Inside Llewyn Davis, Frances Ha) works as a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey—an ordinary working guy in a run-of-the-mill small city. His life is regulated clockwork: up around 6am, home by 6pm, walk the dog, drop by the local tavern, drink a beer, chat with the bartender. His wife is a perfect match—Laura (Golshifteh Farahani, Rosewater) is as even-handed and -tempered as her husband. However, there is more beneath the surface, found in each character’s internal lives: Paterson is a poet and Laura a repressed artistic gadfly. Each day before driving the streets, Paterson scrawls a poem in his notebook, and each evening Laura welcomes him home with a new and quirky surprise. Throughout, Jarmusch envelopes these characters, and their community, with a magical yet perfectly balanced air of simplicity and well-being.
William Carlos Williams, who wrote the epic poem Paterson, is a touchstone, as are the poets Wallace Stevens and Frank O’Hara but Jarmusch is, as always, very much his own artist and his unique voice is articulated through Driver and Farahani’s note-perfect performances. This master has done it again, providing us with an offbeat meditation on the couple and their desire for creative self-expression. Idiosyncratic in the best of ways, Paterson is a rewarding slow burn of a film.
“Like the best poetry, Paterson keeps its meticulous construction hidden, letting its impact sneak up on you unawares. When the final image cuts to black, it triggers an overwhelming surge of emotions that’ll make you want to remain seated in the dark until long after the credits have finished rolling, basking in this marvelous film’s afterglow.” (Giovanni Marchini Camia, The Film Stage)
“Writer-director Jim Jarmusch often explores existential themes, but they’ve perhaps never been so beautifully unadorned as they are in Paterson, a deceptively modest character piece that’s profound and moving while remaining grounded in the everyday.” (Tim Grierson, Screen International).
“A lovely fable about the fragile, fruitful and occasionally fraught relationship between creativity and everyday life.” (Geoff Andrew, Time Out)