Movie #5 2021: Paterson (2016)

Jim Jarmusch is one of those directors you hear about a lot, but brush to one side because he’s easily dismissible as a poncey auteurist. But there was something about this one that I simply couldn’t resist, and it was about time I checked it off my watchlist.

Paterson stars Adam Driver as the lead; a young bus driver named ‘Paterson’, who also happens to live in Paterson, New Jersey. Living with his wife and their ridiculously beautiful bulldog, he finds himself writing poetry on the side. Such poems are taken directly from real life poet Ron Padgett, (who wrote a further two poems specifically for use in this film), which work as structural pillars to hold up its script. We take a look at Paterson’s life across the span of a single week, taking in everything he sees, hears and feels in the process.

There’s something so immediately delicious about Paterson, even if it’s about nothing but the realism of an average life. Maybe it’s the clarity of the camerawork, maybe it’s that it feels so warm and comfortable in its mundanity. Whatever it is, I didn’t expect to be so drawn in by it. But as I’ve already said, something pushed me to watch this and I’m really glad I did.

We see such every day, boring things through Adam Driver’s eyes, and it just feels so lovely. The way the sunlight amasses the top floors of a building, his ode to a simple pack of Ohio Blue Tip matches, the comfort of being content in an every day routine, overhearing sweet exchanges between strangers whilst he drives the bus… I could make a list of 100 beautiful but altogether ordinary things in this film and be in awe of each of them. 

What I mean to say is: don’t come to this if you’re looking for an action-packed blockbuster. Adam Driver – though excellent – is as far away from Kylo Ren as he ever will be on film. He bravely under-acts here, which is probably harder to do than it sounds, yet he seems completely natural and effortless. Probably some of his best work in my opinion, and a testament to Jarmusch’s direction, although I’m sure Driver will have put his own minimalist flair on things also.

I’ll admit, it does get a little tedious here and there because it is pretty plotless, after all. But if you give it your undivided attention there’s so much beauty within it. Not only are the visuals often breath-taking and visceral with as much texture as you can find in the real world, but the poetry itself is melodic and resplendent, giving your ears something to love too.

I was completely glued to the screen the entire time to be honest, and I didn’t expect to be at all. It’s simple, good-looking, funny, quiet, wholesome… and Chidi from The Good Place is in it! What’s not to love?

Again, don’t come to Paterson if you’re looking for action; it’s about the little things that make life so wonderful.

Paterson is available to stream on MUBI in the UK, who, by the way, are currently offering a three month subscription for only £1! Take them up on it – it’s perfect for lockdown!

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