Jim Jarmusch’s career trajectory has afforded distinct perspectives on his work, especially as that relates to the idea of a monotonous kind of living. Paterson is generally no different in this regard, but it hints at a possible introduction of optimism. The film’s titular protagonist (Adam Driver) lives with his partner Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) in Paterson, NJ. Paterson drives a bus for a living; he also writes poetry, inspired by what he sees during his daily life—as did William Carlos Williams, a former resident of Paterson, whose poetry inspires our modern-day everyman.
Paterson (the man) has a daily routine, and the viewer soon becomes familiar with it. In the span of one week, Paterson does little to deviate from this path even as various oddball characters and circumstances threaten to intervene. There’s a lyrical flow and a beauty to this—his life always winds back around to the same place despite outside intrusions. Much like the poetry Paterson writes, there’s a rhythmic quality to how the film operates—not through plot, but more by whatever life throws at our main character. Like the best from Jarmusch, this one works because of that seeming aimlessness, and the sense of a cosmic balance between positive and negative moments. In Paterson’s small successes, we find a happiness, a reprieve from bleak realities of our own lives. If monotony is inescapable, then Jarmusch seems to have found the best way to cope with that.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2016 | Dispatch 1.