The new film from Jim Jarmusch focuses on a working-class poet (Adam Driver) in a small New Jersey town who practices his craft amidst the quiet magic of everyday life.
Small-town American life has inspired filmmakers for over a century. In the process, it has created a storytelling tradition that counters the big-city syndrome of so many New York and Los Angeles–set films. With Paterson, Jim Jarmusch brings his unique observational eye to both a character and a community that bear the same name, hinting at ideas of continuity and stability, in this case found in both place and person. Jarmusch has previously focused on the quotidian; his films are quiet and reflective, and in many respects cut against the grain of most contemporary American filmmaking. Here he has created a film that gently transforms the ordinary into the transcendent.
Paterson (Adam Driver) works as a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey — an ordinary working guy in a run-of-the-mill small city. His life is regulated clockwork: up around 6am, home by 6pm, walk the dog, drop by the local tavern, down a beer, chat with the bartender. His wife is a perfect match. Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) is as even-handed and -tempered as her husband. But there's more to these characters' internal lives. Paterson is a poet and Laura a repressed artistic gadfly. Each day before driving the streets, Paterson scrawls a poem in his notebook, and each evening Laura welcomes him home with a new and quirky surprise. Throughout, Jarmusch envelopes these characters, and their community, with a magical yet perfectly balanced air of simplicity and well-being.
William Carlos Williams, who wrote the epic poem Paterson, is a touchstone, as are the poets Wallace Stevens and Frank O'Hara, but Jarmusch is, as always, very much his own artist, and his unique voice is articulated through Driver and Farahani's note-perfect performances. This Zen-like master has done it again, providing us with an offbeat meditation on the couple and their desire for creative self-expression. Idiosyncratic in the best of ways, Paterson is a rewarding slow burn of a film.