PATERSON from writer/director Jim Jarmusch is a quiet, absorbing drama that will make a big impression on you.
What a wonderfully warm feeling you get from watching Jim Jarmusch’s movie PATERSON. Dropping in on a week in the life of bus driver Paterson who, in a sweet twist, lives in the town of Paterson, New Jersey, we observe his day-to-day routine in rich, evocative detail. He drives the bus, on his lunch break he writes poetry, he returns to his effervescent wife Laura, they eat dinner, then he ends his day walking their dog Marvin stopping at his local bar for a beer and a chat with the owner Doc (a lovely supporting turn by the great Barry Shabaka Henley) on the way. And so it repeats. But of course, each day has its share of fascinating, sometimes minimal changes that make us contemplate how our lives are constructed from the same small and important elements. It’s a delight.
I’ve always admired writer/director Jarmusch’s wonderfully idiosyncratic career – my favourite movie of his up to this point was Broken Flowers, his 2005 comedy-drama with Bill Murray – but I think in PATERSON he’s made his finest film yet. With its simple, almost pure narrative and its marvellously distinctive characters, it made a big splash at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and then I’ve been lucky enough to see the movie’s European premiere ahead of its UK cinema release at the recent BFI London Film Festival.
As Paterson, Adam Driver delivers a gentle, wonderfully nuanced portrayal that takes your breath away. I thought he was one of the best parts of Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the deeply conflicted Kylo Ren, where there was so much more to him than just being the possible villain. And then earlier this year, he was terrific as the wily analyst in Jeff Nichols’s brilliant Midnight Special displaying the excitement of meeting someone with extraordinary powers in an inventive, contained and subtly comedic way.
Now, Driver is one of the most in-demand actors out there with high-profile roles in movies by Scorsese and Soderbergh on the way. His softly spoken voice in PATERSON is in lovely contrast to his imposing stature, he’s like a gentle giant. And it’s those thoughts and feelings that Driver has just bubbling beneath the surface which make him so interesting to watch – the slight smile on his face as he listens to his passengers’ conversations on the bus each day, or the awe his features register when he meets a young girl on his walk home from work, who’s possibly an even greater poet than he is (she’s only 12) that make you feel for Paterson and how he keeps a lot of what he thinks and feels inside himself.
This is in great contrast to his wife Laura, an unstoppable creative force played fabulously by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani. The black and white clothes that she wears every day again seem in contrast to her personality that’s anything but. Ideas pour out of her. From refurbishing their house with black and white accessories – shower curtains get painted one day, doors the next – to wanting to contribute to a local farmers’ market by baking cupcakes. With black and white icing of course. Her biggest idea has her thinking she can be a successful country singer by learning the guitar. As Paterson does, we laugh ‘for’ her passion for the seemingly overwhelming idea – not ‘at’ her – and we want her to succeed.
And the same goes for Paterson’s poetry. The lovely, wistful voiceover where you hear his thoughts as they tumble onto the page of his beloved notebook, makes you join Laura celebrating his talent and wishing he did publish some of his poems. These artistic moments for the characters that exist alongside their daily routine, certainly made me think how I fit in my writing whilst working in my job. That’s always great isn’t it, when art makes you think about your own life and Jarmusch has, in a quiet way, achieved exactly that with this gorgeous, absorbing drama.