In the midst of movie offerings that feature incredible CGI
graphics, save-the-world superheroes, fanciful magical powers, family
histrionics, wartime chaos, and over-the-top scatology, Director Jim
Jarmusch gives us something remarkably different:
the seemingly ordinary.
Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey.
Every morning, he wakes up at the same time (between 6:10 and
6:30). He nuzzles his pretty
young wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), and she purrs in response, then
drifts back to sleep. He
gets up and eats a small bowl of cheerios, grabs his lunchbox which she
prepared for him the night before, and walks to work.
His supervisor greets him, he climbs in the bus and begins his
route. Passengers come and
go constantly. He
occasionally hears snippets of conversation---about meeting women at a
party, about anarchist writers of the previous century, about almost
anything at all.
Paterson walks home the same way, picks up the mail from the
leaning mailbox, and tries to set it straight again.
Perky Laura always greets him with enthusiasm, because she's a
bubbly, creative type that's always on a project:
new curtains, cupcakes, a new recipe (a brussel sprout and
cheddar cheese pie?). She
tends to decorate everything in a black and white variation, but
Paterson doesn't mind. He
always encourages her, even when she tells him her dream of becoming a
country music star, and would he please buy her this nice guitar with a
home teaching course? He
doesn't even blink, much less argue.
Paterson's only real passion seems to be writing poetry, except
it's the free-verse, narrative kind. It's supposed to be patterned after
the famous poet from Paterson, New Jersey, William Carlos Williams, the
so-called “imagist” style that sounds so simple and casual: “I
have eaten/ the plums/ that were in/ the icebox/ and which/ you were
probably /saving/ for breakfast /forgive me/ they were delicious/ so
sweet /and so cold/
Paterson very carefully writes his poetry longhand, in a diary,
and happy Laura tells him how wonderful they are, and he should consider
getting them published. Other
than their English bulldog, who probably enjoys way too much screen
time, the only other venue is the local bar, where Paterson goes every
night while walking the dog, and has exactly one beer.
There are some relational dramas that play out while Paterson is
sitting there drinking his beer, and we finally realize that's his
entertainment. He doesn't
read books. He doesn't watch
television. He doesn't have
a cell phone. He doesn't
play video games. He doesn't
play sports or even work out. His
life is minimalism pushing toward nihilism.
People are going to respond to this movie differently.
Some are going to claim it takes them to a happy place where
marital relationships are loving and affirming, and life is peaceful.
Others will claim that there is a kind of profound poetry in
living a simple life, when all about you is chaos and complication.
Others will claim that this movie is DOA, nothing happens, and
not only does it go nowhere, it's interminably slow in getting there.
Perhaps each response is valid, in its own context.
Perhaps your response to this quiet, slice-of-life
movie says more about you than it does the film itself.