Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Helen-Jean Arthur
Genre: Comedy/ Drama
A week in the life of a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. His name also happens to be Paterson (Driver), and his days consist of the same routine of going to work, going to the same bar in the evenings and writing poetry in his spare time.
‘Unconventional’ has often been a word used to describe the films of Jim Jarmusch. For me this is of course a nonsense word as it is like defining the word normal. Unfortunately, currently the word ‘unconventional’ means it doesn’t have lots of car chases and explosions or a simple narrative with no substance or depth. Okay, so maybe I generalise, but I think you get the point. The words ‘unconventional’ or ‘pretentious’ are basically attributed to films that offer that bit more substance than your average vacuous multiplex explosion-fests.
Well, Paterson is basically one of those films where what you get out of it simply depends on what you put in. When describing the overall plot from start to finish to those who have not seen it, it would certainly sound like very little happens during the film’s two hours, but not only is that actually part of the point, it is all about context, as what happens during the narrative is a big deal to those involved and their individual lives.
For those who are willing to get involved in this exceptionally rich film it is indeed a very engaging and involving film, with many pleasures to be had. The plot is indeed an average week in the life of a bus driver who writes poetry as a hobby, what happened before and what will happen after are unknown to us the viewer, but that is also part of the point and what makes Paterson such a rich and involving experience.
Jarmusch provides us with a menagerie of characters that are both relatable and believable, and that is what is at the heart of his film in terms of both the individuals that Paterson comes across and what happens during his week. One of the key elements of the narrative is that in all our lives we get those small little individual moments within our mundane routines that we unfortunately call living in the real world, and some of these subtle and unique individual moments stand out. Paterson is a film that appreciates these; ultimately the week that the narrative takes place in is not particularly out of the ordinary for our protagonist, and probably all other weeks have just as many unique, stand-out moments as this one, and that is also part of the point.
Most of us live particularly mundane lives where we simply work to live while also still have in our minds the dream we had, as so many of us never really fulfil are true potential and do not get the opportunity to do so. Paterson is a film that both embraces and celebrates this fact that many, many people that we work with or randomly meet have hidden and unfulfilled talents that we may never know about. This is in some way quite a depressing fact, but is one of the reasons as to why Paterson is such an emotionally rich film. There is indeed an element of melancholy within the narrative, but Jarmusch is a skilful filmmaker and knows just how to portray this, so that is never overemphasised and only remains both subtle and relatable.
There are also many comedic moments within the film, but these are again within the context of the narrative’s core themes and ideologies, as there are always moments of subtle humour in real life, yet the humour (like everything else) is often based on the context. While watching Paterson Jarmusch make sure that the viewer understands the context, and so we see the world as our protagonist does, and this enables us to laugh at the moments Paterson laughs, but also share his emotions during the darker and more dramatic moments during his week.
Holding the narrative together is a superb central performance from Adam Driver as Paterson. He delivers a perfectly understated performance as a protagonist that, like so many of us, have always dreamed of greater things can relate to, so many just see him as a man that drives a bus, but he is so much more to those that actually get to know him. It is of course no accident that he shares the name of his home city, and the city of Paterson itself is very much a key character in the narrative.
Golshifteh Farahani is also excellent as Laura. Her character would be very easy to get wrong both in terms of the script and her performance; but she does emerge as a likeable and engaging character who is a key part of Paterson’s life, and therefore the narrative itself. Her character’s natural enthusiasm and naivety, as well as obsession with painting everything could have easily been annoying, but her enthusiasm is infectious and helps to drive the character driven narrative, but also prove to be the perfect ying to Paterson’s yang.
Paterson is a film that speaks to those millions of us that work to live in a mundane and unfulfilling job and lead an equally mundane life, but also have loftier ambitions and dreams of achieving our true potential. This is a film that appreciates the beauty and joy that can be found in even the most mundane and supposedly uneventful existence, as we all have something to offer, even if that is simply bringing joy to those that we know or one the hobbies we have. This is very much a film that will resonate with those of us that like to think on a deeper level, and to those of us that do, Paterson is surely one of the most emotionally rewarding and best films of 2016.
Jim Jarmusch once again proves to be an auteur that can put together a narrative that is both simple but also deeply engaging and emotionally satisfying; Paterson is a film that will resonate with anyone that has dreams, ambitions and thoughts beyond their actual day to day life.