Paterson (Adam Driver) is a public bus driver in the New Jersey city of Paterson (a coincidence that is not gone unnoticed). The film follows a week in this life as he faces the doldrums of daily life. Not just his, mind you, but also the lives of those around him. He finds inspiration in his observations of the small world in which he lives, and channels it into his poetry. In contrast, Paterson’s wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) is desperately trying to land on a creative outlet that suits her (baking, country music, tapestry design). Despite clearly not quite being settled in her life, she shows nothing but support for her husband and the life he has provided for them.
At times you wonder why Laura has settled for this life, and other times you wonder why Paterson appeases Laura’s lofty ambitions. But when you look at them as a couple, you see two people that are in love with one another, and more importantly, happy with one another. Paterson is the study of a man who finds comfort and creativity in the malaise of daily life, and a woman who isn’t quite satisfied with what life has offered her, both compromising a bit to be with each other. It celebrates normalcy and the mundane, but also champions the idea of creative expression.
Paterson is every bit a film by writer/director Jim Jarmusch. I would not have been surprised if Jarmusch had decided to shoot the film in black and white, like his earlier efforts Strangers in Paradise and Dead Man. While Paterson is considerably more nuanced than his previous films, tonally it rings very true to his body of work. However, I wish I could say I loved it as much as I should have. This is a very character driven film, as there is little plot to be had, but I felt that we learned as much about the characters as we were going to fairly early on in the film. Paterson plateaus pretty quickly in terms of character development, and with no conflict or real plot to speak of, I feel this would have worked better as a short film. While I understand the film’s structure of a week in the life of Paterson further exemplifies the point of finding beauty in the observations of everyday life, it is ultimately unnecessary.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed Paterson. The performances were wonderful, and and I very much appreciated what Jarmusch was trying to say, but I feel it would have been more effective in a shorter form.