Film Review – ‘Paterson’


The latest feature from Jim Jarmusch; ‘Paterson‘ takes us through seven days centred on the lead character who is called Paterson, who lives in Paterson, New Jersey with his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). Paterson (Adam Driver) is bus driver and poet, though he doesn’t like to admit the latter.

There are several structural points of interest. The film is in part about duplicity or repetition. Several of the bus passengers and background extra performances are from twins or people that look very similar. Paterson wakes up around 06:15 every morning, puts on his wristwatch, goes to work, drives the same route all day, before arriving back home, taking his pug Marvin for a walk and drinking a half pint of beer at the same local bar. This routine allows for some movement within a set of limitations. This is how one might think of writing a poem.

Further still, Paterson drives his bus into town, the route being “23 – Paterson”. He does as he thinks about lines of poetry; his own and that of William Carlos Williams (whose epic work Paterson looms over the film somewhat). The visuals are appealing and appropriate for the subject matter. One close up of the bus windscreen shows the edges of the streets travel past the moving vehicle and the reflections of the surroundings look awry and distorted.

The narrative is strong, yet uneventful. There’s a kind of mundane realism, offset by a dry humour. Laura is obsessed with monochrome, the whole flat slowly turning black and white. Ironically, the drab outside seems more colourful than the black painted interiors, and the nuggets of b&w ornaments and furnishings. Laura also has a naïve innocence to begin with, but also a more wise level of practical know-how. She knows what she wants to do, and what she wants to achieve (even if those goals seem a little far away sometimes). In contrast Paterson spends the week of the film pondering his own existence with few conclusions.

This is a picture that will stay with you for a long time. At just under two hours, it manages to become a thought-provoking piece – against all odds really considering it is about a bus driver and takes place over seven days. There are some significant narrative developments in that time, but they seem to just mesh into the everyday life of Paterson. Adam Driver does well as a character that is seemingly not phased by disruption to routine. The other characters; Laura, bartender (Barry Henley), and the other regulars at the bar (including Chasten Harmon and William Jackson Harper as Marie and Everett) seem to react in a melodramatic way to these disruptions.

There are an unprecedented amount of niche references to poets, other Jarmusch works (most obviously a nod to his recent Iggy Pop documentary ‘Gimme Danger‘), and plethora of other intertextual links. Everyone will get a slightly different thing out of ‘Paterson‘. Watch it once, then watch it again.

[rating=5]| Zach Roddis

Comedy, Drama | USA, 2016 | 15 | Soda Pictures | 25th November 2016 (UK) | Dir.Jim Jarmusch | Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Barry Shabaka Henley