Sunday, 2 April 2017


An ordinary week in the ordinary life of an ordinary bus driver named Paterson in the ordinary city of Paterson, New Jersey. Paterson does basically the same thing day after day, returning home to his partner and their dog, straightening the mailbox in front of their small house, and then walking the dog to the neighbourhood bar, where he stops for a beer and a chat with the bartender.


No, seriously, WOW! The latest film by Jim Jarmusch, which was released last year but didn’t find its way to Winnipeg until now, is so full of ideas and symbols and empathy and the joy and necessity of creativity in everyday life that it completely overwhelmed me. Fortunately, Janelle was there to explain all the symbolism to me (the yin and the yang, the opposites that need each other for wholeness, the duality that’s a necessary part of our daily life), something which few critics seemed to pick up on (though they all loved the film). 

Paterson is no ordinary film. From beginning to end, it is a beautiful poem about the life of an extraordinary poet. Yes, I lied. Paterson, played to perfection by Adam Driver, is no ordinary bus driver. He’s a poet who starts each day by writing a poem in his secret notebook. His partner, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), tells him he should get his poems published, or at least make a copy of them, but that’s not who he is. Paterson doesn’t see himself as a poet. He’s a bus driver who carefully observes everything around him and writes down reflections as poems because he loves poetry. He has no dreams of fame, unlike Laura, who has many dreams (and is obsessed with the colours back and white - the opposites that need each other).

In that ordinary week, Paterson will actually have a number of extraordinary encounters and experiences, some good and some not so good. For some people, the discouragement of the ‘not-so-good’ would be overwhelming, but Paterson somehow finds a balance between the opposites of inspiration and dispiritedness, as he finds a balance in his encounters with an incredibly diverse group of people, representing a variety of ethnic groups and personality styles. We all need each other.

Above all (for me), the film is about the need for each of us to be creative, regardless of how ordinary our lives are.

The cinematography in Paterson is gorgeous, revealing the hidden beauty around every corner of ordinary Paterson, New Jersey. The score by Jarmusch’s band, SQÜRL, as always, provides the perfect compliment to the story. The acting is solid throughout, with a special nod to Barry Shabaka Henley as Doc, the bartender. 

Paterson is yet another magical film from Jarmusch, though it's not as magical or marvellous as Jarmusch’s last film, Only Lover Left Alive, which is among my all-time favourites. Paterson gets ****. My mug is up and, since it was only released in Canada well into 2017, Paterson is assured a place in my top ten films of the year. 

1 comment:

  1. Not quite sure what to make of this. It feels like my mood could tip one way and agree that it's amazing or tip the other way and go "Meh." It's hard to know whether or not you are right about the acting because you'd have to know what the director intended them to act like. The hardest part for me was the stilted relationship between the main characters. I can think it through and get it, but it didn't feel very realistic to me. But lots to think about and the thinking usually bears fruit, which is a good sign. I suspect knowing the poem by William Carlos Williams would help a lot.