I saw a film last night at the Midtown Art Cinema in Atlanta, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Paterson is Jim Jarmusch’s latest work about a bus driver/poet named Paterson who lives in Paterson, NJ. The film follows Paterson and his wife, Laura over a span of seven days while they go about their life. Nothing monumental or life-changing happens, and yet there is a noticeable shift in the characters by the end of the film. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this. I’ve never felt more peaceful or been more creatively inspired by a movie before. I am not well versed in any of Jarmusch’s previous works, so I’m not sure if this is his style or not, but it was unbelievably refreshing to see a film so devoid of conflict. Like any film, it has a rising action and a resolution at the end, but it is a very gradual rise and fall. It is really hard to explain why I love this movie, other than the fact that it stars my favorite actor right now, Adam Driver. I have been following this film since it made its first premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and without having even seen it, I knew it was going to be one that I watched over and over.
Even though I was prepared for it to be a pretty mellow movie, I still tensed as if waiting for the other shoe to drop. The music in the beginning had a horror feel to it as Paterson walked unassumingly to work, and I was tense as I awaited the impending doom I was sure was to come. But nothing really bad ever happened. We were teased by potential dangers, like the threat of Marvin, Paterson and Laura’s English Bulldog, being kidnapped or even when (SPOILER) Everett brings a fake gun into the bar. No matter what situation arose, Paterson still woke up the next morning in bed with Laura.
Their relationship, by the way, is so beautiful and pure. Their love and mutual understanding of each other is the real heart of the film. Everything Paterson does is for her. He starts and ends and his day by her side, and their relationship is such a beautiful portrayal of two people in long-lasting love. Where Paterson internalizes his art, Laura is so energetic and outward with her art. They are a perfect balance. She supports him and encourages him just as he encourages her ever-changing dreams. It is very rare for such a thing to be captured in film and television. Especially since everything portrayed in television and film is so revolved around sex and drama. By no means am I saying that it is perfect, because I firmly believe that there is always room for improvement, but it’s pretty close to what I consider perfection.
The only thing that irked me was Laura’s constant berating for Paterson to make copies of his poetry. Poetry is just a part of him, and who says that you have to share your talents with the world? Sometimes it is nice to keep them to yourself for a bit. After all, that is where they are most safe. I also feel that since Paterson analyzes and observes everything, his poetry wouldn’t be the same if he knew that other people would potentially read it. By keeping it in his secret notebook, he was able to write freely without inhibitions. There was one scene where I thought he might have regretted not making copies of his poems. When he was in his study in the basement, he was looking at William Carlos Williams’s book and it felt like maybe he had a bit of yearning to have one of his own.
I didn’t realize how much I had to say about this film until I sat down to write, but I want to touch a bit on the acting. The whole cast was phenomenal. My favorite kind of acting is the kind where I don’t even realize I’m at a movie. Golshifteh Farahani was strikingly beautiful and delicate in comparison to Driver’s lanky, yet bulky stature. He seemed to hunch his way around the house, where Farahani moved as graceful and lithe as a bird. There were a few scenes between Paterson and Laura that pulled me away, but I’d have to re-watch the movie to see why I felt that way exactly. Overall, though, it was incredible. Adam Driver was amazing, but I’m kind of biased since I will literally see anything he does. He could do a three-hour-long movie about him eating cereal and I would think it was a masterpiece. But seriously, he is such a unique actor. He is unexpected in his movements and is a master of the micro-expression. He is silent the majority of the film, but not in the “lights on, but nobody’s home” way. You can see him listening and absorbing everything around him and it is beautiful. I want to go on the record here and now by saying that he is going to be one of the greats. I think that too many people get caught up in superficial expectations for actors in “the business”, and not enough people see what true craftsmanship looks like.
I highly recommend this film to literally everyone.